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Shazier stars in backs on backers

Ray Fittipaldo 7 years ago

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sent the message loud and clear Friday afternoon when his players reported for training camp. “See you Monday” was his response when he was asked if there would be live tackling on the first day of padded practices.

An hour into the first of those padded practices Monday afternoon, there was a spirited backs on backers drill followed by team drills that included live tackling.

“We’ll put them in some challenging situations, see how they respond,” Tomlin said after practice. “From an intensity standpoint, I give each side a thumbs-up in terms of rising to the occasion that was presented.”

The star of the backs on backers drill was rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier. In the drills, linebackers go one-on-one against running backs and tight ends trying to get to the quarterback.

Shazier twice beat veteran running back LeGarrette Blount on speed moves, making Blount look bad. On the third rush, Blount stepped up and popped Shazier before he could make a move.

Still, two out of three isn’t bad for a rookie going up against a season veteran.

“He did some nice things,” Tomlin said. “He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility.”

Blount gave the rookie his due.

“He got my attention on the first couple,” Blount said. “As a football player it’s in your nature not to lose. I just have to make sure I get him before he gets off the line. He’s a quick kid. Obviously, I’m not as quick as he is so I have to get to him before he makes his move. He’s really quick, he’s really fast. He makes plays.”

Linebackers coach Joey Porter spent the drill instructing the linebackers in an entertaining fashion. He was exhorted Shazier to use his speed to his advantage.

“He could be 10 miles away and you’d hear coach Porter. He just says use what you know best.”