PITTSBURGH - In 2007, head coach Mike Tomlin’s first season with the Steelers, the team selected inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons with the 15th pick in the draft.
Thursday, in the opening round of this year’s NFL Draft, the Steelers once again held the 15th selection. This time around, Pittsburgh again selected another inside linebacker in Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier.
And like Timmons before him, Shazier is a linebacker whose game is built on speed.”
The 21-year-old Shazier (6-1, 237) ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at his on-campus workout at Ohio State this offseason, displaying the kind of speed usually seen in defensive backs.
“This guy can flat out run,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. “Today’s offenses continue to spread out, and you need speed. You need speed at linebacker, your secondary; you need speed everywhere. This kid has unique ability to make plays not only at him, but plays laterally as well. Most of those plays are tackles for losses, and we’re super excited that he was there for us.”
The Steelers bypassed what were viewed as bigger needs at cornerback and wide receiver to take Shazier.
But Tomlin said the ability to add another player with similar qualities to Timmons was too good to pass up.
“He’s Lawrence Timmons 2014,” Tomlin said, “only faster.”
As has been the case in recent years, the Steelers wasted no time in getting their pick to the podium when the time came, wasting very little of the 10 minutes allotted to them per NFL rules.
“We liked some guys that were in that area,” said Tomlin, noting the team received a couple of offers to move back in the first round.
“When we got on the clock, we quickly got on the phone with this young man. When we know what we like, we don’t do any window shopping in Pittsburgh.”
Shazier (6-1, 237) played outside linebacker for the Buckeyes but will be asked to move inside to mack linebacker for the Steelers, the same position as Timmons.
That means Timmons could be on the move.
“We’ll look at moving some guys around,” Tomlin said.
Shazier recorded 315 tackles in 39 career games at Ohio, including 29 starts. In 2013, he recorded 143 tackles, six sacks, four pass deflections and four forced fumbles. Most impressively, 22.5 of his tackles were made behind the line of scrimmage last season.
“He’s going to continue to grow and his ability to make plays laterally in the backfield as tackles for losses, I think that is very important for today’s defenses,” said Colbert.
With buck linebacker Larry Foote suffering an arm injury in the regular season opener last season, the Steelers gave up an uncharacteristic 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. The Steelers released Foote in early March in a cost-cutting move and obviously felt Shazier was better than Vince Williams, a sixth-round pick last season who spent most of the season at the buck position.
“(Ohio State) asked him to do a lot of things, similar things that we’ll ask him to do,” said Tomlin. “He’s got no holes.”
If Shazier can pick up the mack linebacker spot quickly, the Steelers can shift Timmons to buck and won’t be forced to play safety Troy Polamalu at inside linebacker on passing downs as they did in 2013, an adjustment defensive coordinator defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau made after Foote was lost.
“I’m sure Dick and the rest of the defensive staff are excited about drawing up some stuff for him,” Tomlin said.
“You need defensive playmakers, he’s a defensive playmaker,” said Colbert.
Odds and end zones
The Steelers have eight remaining picks, including two today, one each in the second and third rounds. … The 2014 Steelers Fan Blitz will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Heinz Field. Steelers’ draft picks will be available to meet with fans. ... The Steelers will air a four-part documentary beginning May 14 at noon on Steelers.com on the 2014 draft called “Countdown: Behind the Scenes Story of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Draft.” The series will cover the team’s draft process, starting at training camp and running through the draft weekend.