Ryan Shazier is from Florida and played his college football in Ohio, but he still felt the Pittsburgh area code was familiar when it popped up on his phone during the first round of the NFL draft.
What he finds when he gets to the Steel City to suit up for its football team might not be too new, either. Not only is it another northern city with crisp falls, cold winters and a serious interest in sports, the Steelers' scheme does not differ significantly from the one he played in at Ohio State.
Of course, that is no secret by now as Pittsburgh enters the 10th year of the second tenure of former Buckeye Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator.
Shazier already knows he will find some similarities in the schemes.
"I first talked to the Steelers at my pro day," he said. "We had a good talk, just telling me they saw a lot of abilities and how I would fit. Last night on the phone it was amazing seeing the 412 area code on my cell phone. Words can't even describe it, and to hear Coach (Mike) Tomlin's voice and the (GM Kevin Colbert's) voice, it was just amazing to think I'll be here for the rest of my life."
In pre-draft meetings, club officials asked him to draw Ohio State's base 4-3 defense and some of its variants, including sub packages he was part of. The coaches responded by showing him some of what they do in their 3-4 attack and testing his ability to remember.
Now he is projected to play one of the inside linebacker spots after spending most of his Ohio State career as the "Will" linebacker in the base defense. He also played a speed rusher in some packages.
"Obviously, we're always very comfortable looking at Ohio State defensive tape, and they asked him to do a lot of similar things that we could envision asking him to do," said Tomlin, whose organization also drafted defensive linemen Cameron Heyward, Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibson (who tried his hand at linebacker in Pittsburgh) in recent years.
"In their base defense, he played inside and in sub-package football, he got after the quarterback quite a bit," Tomlin said. "He's a guy who will be on his feet, making sideline-to-sideline tackles associated with today's football."
The Steelers' head coach cited Shazier's playmaking ability first when listing off his assets. That comes as no surprise after the Plantation, Fla., product posted a whopping 44.5 tackles for loss during his three years at Ohio State. He was third in the nation with 22.5 last season and earned All-America honors from the Associated Press.
"He gets after the quarterback," Tomlin said. "He's rushed the passer, and he makes plays in coverage as well. That's what he is, he's a defensive playmaker. Bigger than position needs, what we needed was a defensive playmaker."
Shazier's next challenge is to learn the pro game, but he acknowledged he might have an early first step in that process thanks to the Buckeyes' scheme under coordinator Luke Fickell and his predecessor, Jim Heacock.
"Yeah, I see a lot of similarities, especially when Coach Fickell comes here a lot and learns from these guys, so I feel some of the stuff he taught me there will help me progress to this level."
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