Friday, May 09, 2014

Comparisons to be Made

So much for Sean Spence. And Terrence Garvin.

Steeler Nation, meet your new hybrid safety/inside linebacker: Ryan Shazier.

This is a controversial, debatable choice for the No. 15 overall pick in the NFL draft. It is not a safe choice, although Shazier was productive at Ohio State, and he is athletic. There is concern he may be undersized.

As Mike Tomlin noted, however, Shazier is fast and can make plays "horizontally and vertically."  What that means, hopefully, is that Shazier will be able to cover the NFL's tall, fast tight ends running down the seam in the middle of the field, as well as track down fast running backs sideline-to-sideline, and run with the mobile quarterbacks becoming more prevalent in the league these days.

So, there is a case to be made for Shazier. Presumably, he will assume the role Troy Polamalu played so much last year: Close to the line of scrimmage, at the second level, disrupting lanes and also dropping back into coverage with tight ends, receivers and running backs; with the periodic burst up the middle on a pass rush.

For what it's worth (nothing, probably), in the one 40-yard dash highlight shown on the NFL Network after the pick was announced, Shazier blazed through the sprint -- but pulled up at the end with a hamstring problem. Uh-oh. Let's hope that's not a portent of things to come. If there's one thing we've learned about problematic hamstrings, it is that they can be persistent, recurring and take forever to heal. And they keep coming back. Don't they, Lammarr Woodley?

For the next few years, however, Steeler fans will be keeping an eye on the development not only of Shazier but of three players in particular who could have been drafted instead of him.

Those are:

Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame, who went to the Cowboys with the very next pick, No. 16. As noted in our post early on Draft Day, if Odell Beckham, Jr. and Justin Gilbert were off the board, we'd identified Martin as the next guy we would have taken. In Dallas, by the way, some of the pre-draft media prognostications had projected Shazier going to the Cowboys at No. 16.

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama, who went to Baltimore with the very next pick after Martin, at No, 17 overall. Mosley was a more heralded player than Shazier, although some concerns have been raised about his durability. The two inside linebackers are about the same size, but Shazier runs a faster 40-yard dash.

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State, who went to Cincinnati, for crying out loud, at No. 25 overall. Mike Greenberg ("Mike and Mike") called Dennard the steal of the first round, and that he can flat out play, never mind the 40 time.

When the Steelers went on the clock, with Kyle Fuller, Justin Gilbert and Odell Beckham already off the board, we figured the Steelers would take nearly the full 10 minutes and probably trade down.  Shazier may have been available later in the first round; or maybe not. Jerry Jones in Dallas may very well have intended to draft him at No. 16.

The Steelers took hardly any time at all to turn in their card. For better or worse, this pick has "Mike Tomlin" written all over it.

Next up: Pick No. 46.

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