- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Shazier opened offseason practice atop the Steelers' depth chart at inside linebacker, something that is almost unheard of for a rookie.
The first-round pick flashed his speed and athleticism, especially when he made a leaping interception that held up as the play of offseason practices. He generally looked like anything but overwhelmed despite all of the new information he has had to process.
Shazier, in fact, created a palpable buzz over the last month and he will enter training camp as the man to beat at weakside inside linebacker for a handful of players, including the one who started 11 games there last season.
So what did Mike Tomlin think of the progress Shazier made during the offseason practices that concluded late Thursday afternoon?
“It’s only shorts,” he said.
Yep, see ya in Latrobe, coach.
The Steelers are off for the next five weeks though many of the players who scattered after the final minicamp practice will head to warm-weather locales to continue training, not soak up the sun, until the start of training camp.
Tomlin, while loathe to analyze any of the players' progress during offseason practices that did not include pads or hitting, did acknowledge that a couple of positives came out of the drills.
The Steelers will be healthy going into camp, which starts on July 25. A couple of players were hampered by nagging injuries, such as outside linebacker Jason Worilds (calf), during offseason practices. But no one who is projected to play a significant role this season will have to work through a significant injury at the outset of camp, barring an injury over the next five weeks. “If guys are nursing anything it’s something minor and we’re taking a measured approach to their progress, understanding what time of year it is and the battle that lies ahead,” Tomlin said.
Organized team activities, which are voluntary, were well-attended. Troy Polamalu, who took part in all three minicamp practices, was the only no-show for OTAs. The eight-time Pro Bowler stayed in California so he could train. “The first rule of getting better is showing up and I thought we had great attendance and participation,” Tomlin said. "I thought we had a productive offseason."
Tomlin wouldn’t go much farther than that as far as what the Steelers actually got out of the offseason practices. The reason for that is simple: The real evaluations won't start until after the players report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
“You can convince yourself of anything this time of year,” Tomlin said. “I'm not interesting in telling a story to myself. This isn’t football. It’s football-like and it’s a great opportunity to improve and learn and develop, gain cohesion and understanding. That’s what this is about as opposed to evaluating performance.”
Lawrence Timmons agreed.
“We haven’t played football yet so we really don’t know [what they have],” the veteran inside linebacker said. “For us to say we’re this, we’re that, we’d by lying to you.”
Yep, see ya in Latrobe.