Ryan Shazier answered several questions after Tuesday’s OTAs about the injuries he has had to deal with since he came into the NFL as the Steelers No. 1 draft pick in 2014.
And chances are good, despite the fact that he is hoping otherwise, that he will have to answer similar ones over and over again before the season starts.
His rookie season, it was an ankle and knee injury that haunted him. The following season, a shoulder injury plagued him. And last year, it was his knee that caused him to miss three games.
When healthy, Shazier has shown potential to be one of the best inside linebackers in the game. But there is the asterisk there … when healthy.
“That is one of the most painful things,” said Shazier. “It’s not like people get hurt on purpose. I know I have the ability to be one of the best linebackers in the league. I just want to do the best I can to stay healthy, do what I can to help this team and show everybody what I really can do. I really feel like I can be one of the best players.”
Shazier finished the 2016 regular season with 87 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, nine passes defensed, seven quarterback pressures, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Not bad numbers on their own, but considering he missed three games they jump out even more. The good news, he feels he can be even more productive this year.
“I definitely feel like this year could be my year,” said Shazier. “I feel like I have the ability to be one of the top players. I just have to show everybody and be healthy on the field and continue to get better every day.
“When I am healthy, I can bring more to the table. I definitely think my involvement in pass rush and overall coverage game is getting better. In the second half of the season, and especially the playoffs, I think everyone got to see how well I can play and my capabilities.”
Shazier likes the outlook for the defense as a whole heading into the 2017 season as well. While the defense lost inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to free agency, Shazier thinks the pieces to the puzzle exist for them to be dominant.
“We pretty much have all of our guys back,” said Shazier. “Vince (Williams) is going to be a great guy to come in and help this defense. T.J. (Watt) is going to help our defense. A lot of the rookies will help. We are going to gradually get back to where we were at the end of last year and be one of the best defenses in the league, if not the best.”
The Steelers practice jerseys had a new look on Tuesday with the addition of a patch on the left chest for Rivendale Farms, one of the team’s corporate partners. Rivendale, located in Washington, Pa., is owned by Thomas Tull, part of the Steelers Ownership Group. The farm specializes in growing organic fruits and vegetables, while using modern technology. In the past the team wore a patch that represented Tull’s former company, Legendary, which he no longer owns.
The Steelers participate in day 8 of the 2017 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.