Ranking every Steelers first-round draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90)
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
11 of 16

6. Ryan Shazier, 2014 first-round pick

Let me start by saying that I am beyond thankful to see Ryan Shazier walk again. Frankly, none of us should overly care about a ranking of him considering the trauma he went through. The fact he is walking and has moved on with his life’s work is amazing, and I am so happy to see him healthy.

In terms of draft picks of the Tomlin era, Shazier is very much a what-if. The uber athlete joined the team and quickly established himself as a playmaker. Early on, he had a lot of warts to work through, as he struggled with some consistencies, but he ended up making an impact.

Shazier enjoyed an extremely productive career at Ohio State. His sophomore and junior seasons were great, as he played sideline to sideline and attacked the backfield. This yielded sacks and tackles for losses in bunches, and his athletic profile made him the Steelers target in 2014.

As said, he did struggle with some consistencies early on, but he worked his way into a starting role and didn’t look back. His playmaking ability continued in the pros, as he was constantly around the football. The defense hadn’t had a playmaker like that since the prime of the defense in the mid-2000s.

His untimely injury came right as he was taking the next steps as a player. He was going from a good defender into a superstar, but that was all cut short due to his career-ending back injury. Again, we should just be happy that he is healthy, but this is easily the biggest question mark of this ranking.