When 2014 first round pick Ryan Shazier takes the field as a starting linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be doing something no rookie at his position has done in 13 years. After an impressive training camp and preseason, Shazier will be the first rookie linebacker to start for the Steelers since Kendrell Bell in 2001.
“It’s been a dream of mine my whole life, to play in the NFL, and then the first game of my career is going to be a start,” Shazier said per the Times Online. “Words will not even be able to describe it. It puts me in nice company.”
Nice company is an understatement. Bell won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for his performance as a rookie linebacker. The last rookie before Bell to start Week 1? Pittsburgh Steelers legend and Hall of Famer Jack Lambert. Now Shazier is hoping that his combination of speed and instincts will put him in such company beyond just a Week 1 start.
As for his next step as a professional, Shazier was predictably coy. “I had some ups and downs, but I feel like I had a pretty decent preseason. I just got to continue growing as we go into the regular season.”