Steelers' Ryan Shazier: Being labeled a dirty player is 'crazy'

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Ryan Shazier

Inside linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers

Born: Sept. 6, 1987

Experience: Three NFL seasons

Interview by Brooke Cersosimo | April 14, 2017

I just enjoyed being able to talk to [Dan Rooney], whether at lunch or brunch, just him giving me knowledge about little things in life. He was always telling me how to focus or giving me books to read or helping me keep a clear mind.

We're going to have a big season this year. A lot of people are expecting us to. We're going to defeat a lot of giants and make sure we have to do what we have to do for Mr. Rooney.

Oooh, I'm a dirty player? Gosh, that's crazy. I didn't know I was a dirty player. Well, I just play my best every game. I'm not trying to hurt people. I've been hurt enough, so I'm not out there trying to hurt people. I know how that feels when you're hurt and can't play the game that you love. If people want to call me a dirty player, then whatever. But at the end of the day, I just got out there and play my best. If a dude drops his head when I'm going to tackle you, then I can't control that. I just give everything I got every time I'm out there.

A lot of guys don't like playing in the cold at all. You can tell who wants to play and who doesn't just by their mentality when they're warming up. I feel like if I'm out there with my shirt off, it's intimidating to some guys. Some guys probably don't care, but to me, it juices me up and shows that no matter what, I'm always going to be ready to play. Some guys are out there in sweaters and don't really want to be out there because it's too freaking cold.

I knew the offense was going to score at the end of [the division-clinching Week 16 win over Baltimore]. I just didn't know how they were going to score -- if it was going be a field goal or touchdown. But when I saw Antonio pretty much run over three or four defenders to score a touchdown, that's what really made me say in my head, That's why he's the best receiver in the NFL. I understand there are a lot of guys who are bigger, a lot of guys who are stronger or guys who are faster. But the thing I think he has over most guys is his "want to." I see how he works every day. It seems like he never gets tired. We'll be done with practice and you'll see Antonio catching 100 balls one way then another way. Then, 50 more with one hand and then the other. That shows you why he was able to do what he did, reach over and score the touchdown.

Odell is pretty slippery. The thing is you watch him on film and you know how good he is, but when you play against him, he's a lot faster than you think. A lot of people are scared to get run over as a linebacker, but it's going to happen eventually. If you try to run me over, I'm going to tackle you anyway. But slippery guys just slip right out of your hands.

You have to take it seriously. Ben playing 13 years, going on 14, around that time guys really do think about retiring. We have a lot of players who are century men and they can play forever. When Ben said that, I truly respected his opinion and thoughts because I know the pain and suffering he goes through sometimes. He has a family and young kids, and he probably wants to be home. You just never know, but we gotta get his final championship, so I think that's what his push is going to be.

You have to understand that Antonio and Le'Veon aren't going to always save us, so others guys have to step up, too. We just have to grow as a team and guys need to better understand what they're doing and not make any mistakes. We have to go out there and play good games, and we can't have any mental mistakes when we're playing.

One thing I did this year more than other years was I started watching way more film and focusing on my body. My normal day is I wake up around 4 a.m., go work out and then get to the facility around 6 a.m. and watch film until 9 o'clock meetings. I watch film to make sure I know everything about our plays and everything I can to help my teammates because I'm the signal caller.

I know money is a big part of why people play football. To me, my goal is to make the Hall of Fame. If you're playing your best football every year, contracts and things like that will come with it. I'm not really worried about the contract talks and how big this season is because I feel like every season is big for me. To have a Hall of Fame career, you have to have consistent, great seasons. I'm starting to have pretty good ones.

I have a mentor. It's [Hall of Fame linebacker] Derrick Brooks and he's really helping me out with my game a lot. He's going to continue to push my game to another level. I think I resemble him a little bit.

I think Artie [Burns] is going to have a great year next year, a breakout type of year. He was a rookie, so he had a lot of ups and downs. He had a lot of good games and a lot of bad games, but we trust Artie. He goes against the best receiver in the league every week in practice, so it helps him get better. I think he's going to have more focus and understanding of what we're trying to do next year, and it's going to help him get in position to make plays.

He's 38 now. I think James [Harrison] can honestly play as long as he wants because he takes care of his body. I do a lot of the same treatments and workout type of things that he does to keep my body in shape. He has to do a little more than I do, but I see all the work he does and how little free time he has because of all the treatment. I think he can play as long as his body allows him to.

Having Alopecia has molded me as a person. My parents are great and have always been very supportive. Having Alopecia has showed me that life's not always going to be easy and things aren't always going to go the way you want. My hair just started growing out of nowhere in the middle of the season, so I'm growing it out to just get more awareness out there. One in 20 people have Alopecia.

I helped bring [Raekwon McMillan] to [Ohio State]. Raekwon's a physical guy. He's a smart football player and has a knack for the ball. I think he's really going to do a great job at inside linebacker. He has leadership qualities, and at Ohio State they teach you the importance of getting to the ball and hand usage. In terms of all-around linebacker skills, I think he has all of them.

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