2015 DRAFT GUIDE
Steelers rookie LB Shazier sparkles in NFL debut

By WILL GRAVES - AP Sports Writer
    2014-08-17 13:28

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ryan Shazier let Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler sprint by him before the rookie Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker gave chase.

The moment Chandler appeared to be open down the seam, EJ Manuel lofted a pretty spiral in Chandler's direction.

It looked like the right decision. It wasn't.

Shazier needed all of two steps to close the gap on Chandler. One well-timed leap and the 15th pick in May's draft had the ball in his hands. By the time he was finally tackled more than 25 yards downfield, the Steelers were in Buffalo territory - and any concerns about Shazier's banged-up right knee were long forgotten.

So much for that ''boo boo'' coach Mike Tomlin kept talking about.

In the span of a precocious half during Pittsburgh's 19-16 win Saturday night, Shazier did more than make up for the week he lost while nursing his knee back to health. He offered proof he's ready to handle his role in what the Steelers hope is a defensive revival in 2014.

Shazier's first game in an NFL uniform included 11 tackles, his graceful interception and a post-play collision that accidentally sent Buffalo rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the trainer's room with bruised ribs.

''I think it's a great confidence booster,'' Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said.

While Tomlin tried to tamp down any concerns about Shazier's knee, the former Ohio State star concedes he was more than a little concerned after he felt a twinge while tackling teammate Le'Veon Bell during practice earlier this month.

''But everything happens for a reason,'' Shazier said.

Shazier missed Pittsburgh's preseason opener against the New York Giants and wasn't cleared for full contact until 48 hours before facing the Bills. As impressive as he was Saturday, he insists he's still not quite himself.

''I just got back to practice two days ago,'' he said. ''I don't feel you can be 100 percent with that amount of practice.''

Consider it a warning. Lining up alongside Lawrence Timmons, Shazier was as relentless as advertised. Racing sideline to sideline - often blowing by Timmons on his way to the ball - Shazier's No. 50 was a black and gold blur at times.

On Buffalo's second play from scrimmage, he tackled running back Fred Jackson. On the next down, he pulled Chandler to the turf. A little while later, he chased Manuel out of bounds after a short gain.

It was just the beginning. On special teams, Shazier smashed into kick returner T.J. Graham short of the Bills 20. The ensuing drive ended with Shazier's interception, and on the next kickoff, Shazier dragged Graham to the turf yet again.

The first quarter wasn't even over. So much for jitters.

''I wouldn't be surprised if they were testing me,'' Shazier said. ''But I did what I had to do.''

Still, he wasn't quite perfect. Shazier slipped trying to tackle Chandler near midfield early in the second quarter. Chandler picked up 24 yards on the third-and-27 from the Pittsburgh 35, giving kicker Dan Carpenter enough room for a 53-yard field goal.

It's that play perhaps more than the others that will stick with Shazier.

''I feel like you have to check yourself every day,'' he said. ''The game will humble you.''

Just in case it doesn't, Shazier's teammates will fill the void for a franchise that considers defensive excellence a requirement. As easy as he made it look at times, he is well aware he's just one very raw cog in a machine that's looking to return to form after a subpar 2013.

''I feel like it was still a difficult defense, still a lot of complicated things in it,'' Shazier said. ''But I feel like I have a lot of great guys around me, helping me learn.''

The education will continue Thursday when the Steelers travel across the state to face Philadelphia. An encore might be difficult. That's fine. Even at age 21, he understands games like the one he enjoyed Saturday don't come around often.

''One week I might have 11 tackles; one week I might have five,'' he said. ''I'm just doing whatever they want me to do.''

---

AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Jake BequetteAug 28 08:52a

New England Patriots TE/DE Jake Bequette (undisclosed) was waived/injured Thursday, Aug. 27.

Miles AustinAug 28 08:32a

Philadelphia Eagles WR Miles Austin hasn't stood out, or received many chances to stand out, thus in training camp. His role is undetermined as he could start on the [ More ]

Nelson AgholorAug 27 10:22p

Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor should be the 'second-most productive receiver on the team when the season ends,' according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Ryan MallettAug 27 07:52p

Updating a previous report, Houston Texans QB Ryan Mallett missed practice Thursday, Aug. 27, because he overslept. Mallett was present for meetings later on, however. He will also be at practice Friday, Aug. 28.

Josh JohnsonAug 27 07:42p

Free-agent QB Josh Johnson (Bengals) signed with the New York Jets Thursday, Aug. 29. QB Jake Heaps was subsequently waived.

R. Griffin IIIAug 27 07:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (concussion) has been cleared to play Saturday, Aug. 29, against the Baltimore Ravens.

Earl ThomasAug 27 06:22p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) is on track to be ready for the start of the regular season, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Markus WheatonAug 27 05:42p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Markus Wheaton could be primed for a breakout season, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler.

Letroy GuionAug 27 04:52p

Green Bay Packers DE Letroy Guion will be suspended for the first three games of the regular season after his appeal was apparently denied.

Martavis BryantAug 27 03:02p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Martavis Bryant has been suspended four games for violating the league's Substance Abuse Policy, according to league sources. He has filed an appeal.

Arian FosterAug 27 02:22p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) has been working out in Houston, and he's expected to return to the field in some facet by Week 2 to Week 4, [ More ]

Pat DevlinAug 27 10:32a

Free-agent QB Pat Devlin (Dolphins) signed with the Cleveland Browns Thursday, Aug. 27. OL Ryan Seymour was waived.

Connor BarthAug 26 08:53p

Free-agent PK Connor Barth (Broncos) agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Aug. 26, on a two-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

DeVante ParkerAug 26 04:23p

Miami Dolphins rookie WR DeVante Parker (foot) isn't sure if he'll be healthy enough in time for Week 1. He and the Dolphins don't want to have rushed return [ More ]

Brandon McManusAug 26 10:33a

Denver Broncos PK Brandon McManus won the kicking job as PK Connor Barth was released Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Connor BarthAug 26 10:33a

Denver Broncos PK Brandon McManus won the kicking job as PK Connor Barth was released Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Evan RoysterAug 26 10:13a

Atlanta Falcons RB Evan Royster (undisclosed) was waived/injured Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Rex GrossmanAug 26 09:23a

Free-agent QB Rex Grossman (Redskins) was signed by the Atlanta Falcons to a one-year, $1 million deal Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Taylor MaysAug 26 12:43a

The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent SS Taylor Mays (Bengals) Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Orlando ScandrickAug 26 12:43a

Updating a previous report, Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick (knee) suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee Tuesday, Aug. 25. An MRI confirmed the injury.

Michael VickAug 25 07:42p

Updating a previous report, free-agent QB Michael Vick (Jets) signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers Tuesday, Aug. 25. Financial terms were not disclosed. QB Bruce Gradkowski (finger) [ More ]

Evan MathisAug 25 06:13p

Free-agent OG Evan Mathis (Eagles) agreed to a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Jameis WinstonAug 25 04:33p

Updating a previous report, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie QB Jameis Winston (ankle) suffered a sprained ankle Monday, Aug. 24, against the Cincinnati Bengals. Head coach Lovie Smith still expects [ More ]

Josh JohnsonAug 25 02:53p

Cincinnati Bengals QB Josh Johnson was released Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Victor CruzAug 25 02:42p

Updating a previous report, New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (calf) doesn't know when he'll be able to return to practice as he continues to deal with inflammation in [ More ]

Zach MettenbergerAug 25 01:23p

Tennessee Titans backup QB Zach Mettenberger has performed at a high level in training camp and the preseason, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt laughed off a suggestion that the [ More ]

Bruce GradkowskiAug 25 12:53p

Pittsburgh Steelers backup QB Bruce Gradkowski (finger) suffered a dislocated finger on his left hand during the team's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, according to [ More ]

Andre WilliamsAug 25 12:22p

New York Giants RB Andre Williams could overtake RB Rashad Jennings as the lead back sometime this season, maybe even to open the season. Williams has worked on his [ More ]

Mike EvansAug 25 09:13a

Updating a previous report, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (hamstring) isn't believed to have a serious hamstring injury. 'I talked to him and he didn't feel like it [ More ]

Jameis WinstonAug 24 11:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston completed eight of his 13 pass attempts for 90 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason game Monday, Aug. 24, against [ More ]

Doug MartinAug 24 11:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin rushed six times for 59 yards in the preseason game Monday, Aug. 24, against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mike EvansAug 24 09:12p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (hamstring) left the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals Monday, Aug. 24, due to a strained hamstring.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group