The drafting of Ryan Shazier gives coordinator Dick LeBeau a freakish new toy: the fastest linebacker to grace the league since Brian Urlacher and the most versatile rookie at his position in this year's class.
During Wednesday's practice, Shazier was a "younger version of Troy Polamalu -- lining up everywhere and anywhere," according to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The creative LeBeau sampled Shazier inside and out against a heavy dosage of two-back sets featuring Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. LeBeau even had Shazier -- graced with 4.38 speed -- line up wide to cover Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown.
Expected to see most of his snaps at weak-inside linebacker alongside Lawrence Timmons, Shazier hit town with one advantage: He's been immersed in LeBeau's defense dating back to his days at Ohio State, where the coach frequently consulted with the Buckeyes' defensive staff.
"A lot of stuff we learned at Ohio State is from this defense," Shazier said. "The coaches came over here every now and then and learned some stuff. Some of it has different terminology, and (is) more complex, but it has a little bit of what we knew."
It's not outrageous to predict Shazier as a rock-solid Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate based on his gifts and perfect fit inside a defense that should draw high praise from Mr. Sapp come September.