The Pittsburgh Steelers found their generational inside linebacker with the 15th-overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft when they were able to select Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State. By his third season, he had transformed himself into a player who had the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler, and that largely coincided with his finding ways to stay on the field, avoiding minor injuries that caused him to miss time.
We know how the story deviated from that script a short time later in December of 2017, of course. He suffered a severe spinal injury that he will continue to come back from for some time. Even as he continues to set his sights on a return to the field, though, the Steelers of course have turned their attention to the position again, trading up in the first round to select Michigan’s Devin Bush with the 10th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The beauty of the arrangement is, of course, that Shazier is in fact still there, on the roster, albeit officially o the Physically Unable to Perform List. Outside of the lack of opportunity to participate in drills on the field, Shazier is every much a part of this team as Bush and everybody else is.
And it’s no surprise that the two have built a relationship. “We stay in communication on a daily basis”, Bush recently said of Shazier on an appearance on WSVN-TV in Miami. “That’s like my big brother, honestly. He’s just showing me the ropes, the ins and outs of the NFL, how to be a man”.
Asked how it all built up to that, he said, “it was just being from the same town, being from the same area, south Florida, then playing in the Big 10, playing against a rivalry school, and then now, I’m at Pittsburgh. So it kind of, everything just kind of led to each other. We just know each other”.
Shazier was born in Lauderdale Lakes. Bush was born in Pembroke Pines, about a half an hour away. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they knew each other growing up, but that is part of the bond that they now have as teammates, even coming from rival colleges.
While Shazier was a truly gifted athlete—he would have easily been a top-five pick in this year’s draft—it was also what he did above the neck that made him great. Bush, too, is a gifted athlete, at the elite among players at his position, but Shazier can help him make the most of those physical abilities by helping to transfer to him his accumulated knowledge.
Not just from playing, but from watching, and studying, for the past year and a half. Shazier has become a coach as much as anything, and a coach who instantly has the players’ respect and credibility. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bush will benefit in untold ways by having him there.