Apparently the Steelers value special players more than they do best cornerbacks available.
It remains to be seen whether an inside linebacker will prove to be more valuable than a corner in the long run, particularly given the lack of depth and play-making ability the Steelers have on the corner.
But in passing on Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard in favor of Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier with the 15th overall selection in the NFL Draft, the Steelers left no doubt which player they considered to have the higher upside, which player they considered special among his peers.
They weren’t alone.
There were NFL scouts who shared the Steelers’ assessment of Shazier and who also regarded Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, who went to the Ravens two picks after the Steelers gobbled up Shazier, as special when compared with what’s normally available at inside linebacker.
Mosley is considered more complete at present but Shazier is more dynamic and more potentially spectacular.
The arms race in the AFC North continues.
“Race” seems especially applicable in Shazier’s case. One team had him at 4.38 in the 40. Shazier said his Pro Day time was 4.36 and that his fastest 40 ever was 4.35. The Steelers’ official time was 4.40, but Mike Tomlin wasn’t interested in such minimal disparity given that it was an inside linebacker being timed.
“Sub-4.5, that’s rare air,” Tomlin said.
At whatever time Shazier plays sideline to sideline. He’ll be a three-down player capable of rushing or covering when necessary. He did it all during a highly productive, splash-play career at Ohio State.
And he'll do so at a position where there's still a perceived hole next to Lawrence Timmons, who might end up moving from "Mack" to "Buck" linebacker to make way for Shazier's play-making capabilities.
Tomlin said the Steelers were going to "look at playing (Shazier) at 'Mack' and maybe move some guys around."
Another star of Shazier's report card is he's said to have zero off-the-field issues (Shazier’s father is the chaplain for the Miami Dolphins).
No wonder the Steelers are all-in on Shazier.
All things being equal a cornerback would be considered more valuable than an inside linebacker the vast majority of the time.
But to the Steelers this clearly wasn’t an all-things-being-equal type of deal.
“This kid is talented and unique,” Kevin Colbert insisted.
You can never have too many of those.