Ever since the Pittsburgh Steelers lost LB Ryan Shazier to a spine injury that ended up cutting short his NFL career, they have been constantly searching for his replacement.
Replacing a player of Shazier’s caliber has been no easy task for the Black and Gold due to his immense athleticism and ability to run sideline-to-sideline in pursuit of the football, blitz and take down opposing quarterbacks, and cover opposing RBs, TEs, and even slot WRs on occasion, having a feel for working in space and making plays on the football in the air.
Pittsburgh tried to go cheap at the position to start, signing the likes of Jon Bostic and Mark Barron to try and replicate what Shazier brought to the defense. They drafted S Terrell Edmunds to play as a strong safety/box linebacker role in attempt to inject more athleticism at the second level and even traded up in the 2019 NFL Draft to select LB Devin Bush in hopes of getting another high-level athlete at LB to replicate a fraction of what Shazier brought to the table.
All those options haven’t yielded close to the results Pittsburgh had hoped for, prompting them to go out and sign LB Myles Jack this offseason after he got released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in a cap saving maneuver. Through eight games, Jack is tied for eight in the NFL with 72 tackles along with two TFLs and two PBUs. DC Teryl Austin was asked about Jack’s first half of the season and if anything surprised him based on what they had gotten out of him so far to which Austin answered that Jack has met the expectations the coaching staff had of him when they signed him this spring.
“He’s kind of what we thought,” Austin said about Jack per official team transcript. “He’s turned out just what we thought he was. He’s a really good football player. He’s physical, he gets around the ball and he’s one of those guys that people around the league know that he was a really good football player, but maybe outside of Jacksonville, you didn’t. I think here you got an opportunity see him, and I’m glad we have him.”
Jack may not be a 1-for-1 replacement for Ryan Shazier, but then again, no one is. While Jack hasn’t made the impact you would like to see from a splash play standpoint and gets lost in coverage at times, He has brought more stability and physicality to the LB core than it has seen post-Shazier.
As Austin pointed out, Jack has been a solid, athletic playmaker during his time at Jacksonville who never really made an impact in the splash play department during his tenure with the team. As Alex Kozora pointed out in his film room on Jack after the signing, he is a linebacker that has the athletic traits to play well in coverage, but his eyes fool him at times as he can be a step slow to process, leading to separation and missed assignments.
Jack currently boasts a 56.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus which isn’t exactly a testament to stellar play. He has been uneven at times this season for Pittsburgh, but compared to the options the team has had in the past and what Jack was prior to coming to Pittsburgh, it’s hard to be upset knowing he is the player we saw in Jacksonville and has at least stabilized one spot of the ILB core.