<
>

Steelers' Shazier off to good start

PITTSBURGH -- Rookie minicamps can sometimes resemble an organized fire drill, and even something as simple as the center-quarterback exchange can be a challenge given that most of the participants have never played together before and are running plays they have just started to learn.

It’s tough to tell a lot from those practices but apparently Ryan Shazier made quite a first impression on the coaches at the Steelers’ recent rookie minicamp.

Shazier played extensively with the first-team defense during the team’s first full-squad offseason practice on Tuesday, and that is the most telling sign yet of the impact the Steelers expect their first-round draft pick to make as a rookie.

“He’s our type of guy,” said strongside inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. “I have nothing but the best things to say about him.”

It is still way too early to project the speedy Shazier starting alongside Timmons in the Steelers’ season opener, which is still more than three months away. He will have to earn the job in training camp when the pads go on and the grind of camp is exacerbated by learning a complex defense on the job.

“The guy has all the ability in the world,” said Timmons, who led the Steelers with 155 tackles last season. “I’m just happy to play with him.”

Shazier, for his part, said the right thing when asked if a starting job is his to lose after playing with the first-team defense during the first of the nine organized team activities (OTA) that the Steelers will hold before a mandatory minicamp next month.

“You have to work for everything you have,” said Shazier, the 15th overall pick of the draft held earlier this month. “I am just going to go out there, just like everybody else, and try to earn my job. I just have to keep showing the coaches that I know what I am doing to help this defense and go out there and play. It was good to get out there and learn from the older guys.”