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Shazier: 'We all want that'

Posted Feb 2, 2016

What is linebacker Ryan Shazier referring to?


Along one of the hallways in the Steelers office hangs photos of the best of the best at each position through the years.

It’s an area that’s hard to miss for the players, one they walk by on a regular basis.

And when they do, many take notice. There are Hall of Famers, legends, players from yesteryear and some that represent the modern years. It’s not just any player who has their picture included. It’s the special ones.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier has seen the group of linebackers who adorn the wall. It serves as motivation. A greatness to strive towards. A goal to work towards.

“I look at that stuff and think about the guys who were here,” said Shazier. “I feel like I am good enough and have the ability to do that stuff. It motivates me to work harder and get better at my position.”

Shazier hopes one day that today’s young linebackers, No. 1 draft picks like himself, Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, share the bond of being considered among the best linebackers ever to play for the Steelers. Because with the history the team has at the position, being thought of as one of the best is a mighty high honor. 

“We would love to have that type of legacy,” said Shazier. “Who wouldn’t want their name to be on the list of guys like Jack Lambert and Jack Ham? That sounds amazing. We all want that. We play this game to be great. We are going to work so we can continue the tradition.”

There is still a lot of work to be done, and Shazier is the first to admit it. In his two seasons he has played in 21 games, missing the others due to various injuries. It’s hampered him in some ways, but he hasn’t let it hold him back.

“It’s frustrating because I know what kind of player I am and the Steelers know what kind of player I am,” said Shazier. “That is why they drafted me. I feel like those injuries made me focus and understand nothing is given to you. You have to work for everything you have. You realize that you have to continue to work no matter what. I feel like that is going to make a difference next year.”

Shazier finished the regular season with 87 tackles and three and a half sacks, but saved his best performance for the postseason when he had a team-high 13 tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered one against the Cincinnati Bengals in a Wild Card game win. But it’s not something he sits back and thinks about, because he knows he can be better. He knows as a former No. 1 pick there is always more expected.

“You definitely feel that pressure,” said Shazier. “Until the day I die I am going to feel that pressure, especially if you are a linebacker. That is what you ask for. You are trying to build on the tradition. That is what we are trying to do the next few years. That is what they drafted us for, to make the city proud.”

One area where he grew leaps and bounds this year was his comfort level in calling the defense. During training camp he was tabbed as the guy to handle the job, but injuries delayed it and Lawrence Timmons remained the one to set the defense early on. But as the season wore on, Shazier took over.

“It’s just my calling,” said Shazier. “I did it at Ohio State and the coaches feel it’s my time to do it now. During the year I started understanding more, I think the coaches could see that. They understood it wasn’t bothering my play. I could set the defense and still go out there and play. There was a game when they said you were going out there and set the defense. I feel like I have a big mouth and that is good. The coaches are telling you a play, telling you what is going on. Once the offense comes out you set the play. But if someone is out there checking, the mic is turned off. You have to start focusing in and seeing the offense doing things, you have to get the defense in position.

“It is making me realize you have to focus in more, understand the game more, and everybody is counting on you. I like that kind of pressure.”

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