- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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LATROBE, Pa. -- The "boo boo" that has sidelined Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier for the past week apparently won't prevent him from playing in his first exhibition game Saturday night.
Shazier said Monday afternoon that he expects to play this week when the Steelers host the Buffalo Bills in a 7:30 p.m. ET game. Shazier, the team's first-round draft pick in May, did not play in the Steelers' 20-16 loss to the New York Giants last Saturday.
"I'm trying to get back on the field as fast as possible," Shazier said. "I'm going to continue to work and do whatever I can to help this team."
The 15th overall pick of the draft is nursing a right knee injury that coach Mike Tomlin has called a "boo boo" several times. Shazier returned to practice in a limited capacity on Monday, doing some invidividual work but not taking part in any drills.
Shazier had created a buzz through the first week of training camp before limping off the field near the end of an Aug. 3 practice. Tomlin has been noticeably coy about Shazier's injury, and Shazier followed his coach's lead when asked about it Monday afternoon.
"I just got hit in practice and that's what I got: a boo boo," Shazier said. "I'm getting it taken care of."
Shazier, who is expected to start at weakside inside linebacker this season, is eager to return to practice.
"You take mental reps but it's hard for you to get better when you're not out there," Shazier said.
Sean Spence, who is almost two years removed from a career-threatening knee injury, has been playing with the first-team defense in place of Shazier.
Spence was one of the biggest storylines from the Steelers' preseason opener. The 5-foot-11, 231-pounder played in a game for the first time since Aug, 30, 2012, and performed well with an early quarterback pressure that forced the Giants' Eli Manning to throw a third-down pass into the turf.
Spence, a 2012 third-round pick, has solidified his spot on the roster with the extra opportunities he's received because of Shazier's injury.
The Steelers will practice four times this week before breaking camp on Friday. Their final two practices at St. Vincent College will be joint ones with the Bills.
"Definitely looking forward to that because you get tired of hitting the same guys every day," Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said, "and it's fun for the players."
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