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Thursday, May 8, 2014
Steelers pick LB Ryan Shazier in 1st

By Scott Brown

PITTSBURGH -- The pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers threw a curveball in the middle of the first round when they picked Ryan Shazier No. 15 overall. Most mock drafts had the Steelers addressing cornerback or wide receiver with their first-round pick, and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard was on the board when the Steelers opted to bolster their linebacker corps. Shazier is an inside linebacker who can "flat out fly," general manager Kevin Colbert said. Shazier started 29 consecutive games at outside linebacker for Ohio State, but the 6-foot, 237-pounder will move inside in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. He recorded 315 career tackles, 14 sacks and 44½ tackles for losses. "Quite frankly, the young man's got no holes," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

My take: The Steelers didn't address one of their most pressing needs by passing over Dennard, but they turned inside linebacker into a strength and added speed to a defense that needs more of it. Shazier is fast enough and versatile enough for the Steelers to move around the field and Colbert said he has the capability to get after the quarterback. I like the pick if Shazier is the difference-maker Colbert and Tomlin are convinced he will be at the next level. And if they can find cornerbacks later in the draft who address their most glaring need.

What might have been: Word is that the Steelers really liked North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, and he may well have been their pick had the Lions not taken him at No. 10 overall. Ebron, who caught 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns last season, would have provided Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with a tall, athletic target, as well as a future successor to Heath Miller. The Steelers have had the 15th overall pick three times since 1991, and all three times they have used it on a linebacker. They picked Lawrence Timmons No. 15 overall in 2007.

What's next: The Steelers have the 46th and 97th picks in the second and third round, respectively, Friday night. They figure to take a cornerback with one of these picks and perhaps a wide receiver. There are enough good wide receivers in this draft that the Steelers can probably still get a good one after the third round if they want to wait.