LATROBE, Pa. – Like most rookies, especially first-round draft picks, linebacker Ryan Shazier had high hopes for his first season in the NFL last year.
Following a dominant performance in the Backs on Backers drill, the linebackers went to work again in the second practice in pads.
But injuries marred his rookie campaign, missing four games with a knee injury and three with an ankle injury. Seeing action in only nine games was definitely not what he had hoped for.
"It gets frustrating when you are hurt because you know what you can do and you are just sitting on the sideline doing rehab and you want to be a part of the action," said Shazier. "It stinks when you are not out there. It's humbling, but it lets you know you have to keep working."
And work is exactly what Shazier did this offseason. He paid close attention through the 2014 season to what fellow linebacker James Harrison does in the weight room, and then joined Harrison in Arizona where he works out in the offseason.
"I try to be in as good a shape as I can," said Shazier. "I feel good right now and have been working hard to get that way. This offseason I would out hard. I worked in the places where James worked. I just worked out harder than I have before so I can be in the best shape I can. I just keep pushing myself more and more every day."
Shazier said that Harrison serves as a great role model for the younger linebackers, not having to say much to them but just leading by example.
"Seeing how hard he works and how competitive we are, you just try to work somewhere around how hard he works," said Shazier. "If you are even close to him, you are going to be in the best shape you can.
"Sometimes you watch and if you fail he will tell you. A lot of times he gives you great advice. You don't have to ask him anything, you just watch him."
Shazier is hoping the offseason work and being in shape pays off for him in 2015. It's not just about staying healthy for him; it's about having a major impact on the defense, something he has his sights set on.
"I just want to do whatever I can to help the team become great," said Shazier. "I feel like I am going to have a great season. I feel like I can do whatever I can to help this team be great. If I can help this team get to the Super Bowl, all of my goals are accomplished."