Ryan Shazier's outstanding play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in preseason has earned him a starting role as the regular season begins. Shazier is the first rookie linebacker in 13 years to become a starter in Pittsburgh.
The last Steelers rookie to start in a season opener at linebacker was Kendrell Bell, who was selected by the Steelers in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Bell was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year that season, and was also named the Steelers' Rookie of the Year. Bell earned a Pro Bowl bid and was a second-team All-Pro selection in the 2001 season as well.
Prior to Bell, the last rookie linebacker to start in a season opener was Jack Lambert in 1974. Lambert was also named the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1974, had a legendary career with the Steelers, and went on to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Shazier impressed his teammates in the preseason with his coverage skills and sure tackling. Shazier's teammate Lawrence Timmons told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "His pass coverage is awesome. You saw the tackles; he was making tackles left and right. He has the pedigree. He has all the talent and the intangibles you want in an inside linebacker."
Shazier was drafted by the Steelers with the 15th-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. During the NFL preseason, Shazier had 18 tackles, three assists, one interception, and one pass deflection.