The Next Generation of the Steel Curtain

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Sep 7, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) tackles Cleveland Browns running back Terrance West (28) during the second half at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won the game, 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Shazier

Equally important to the main cog the Steelers have up front is the middle or inside linebacker. In the ’70s, it was Jack Lambert, in the ’90s, it was Levon Kirkland and in the 2000s, it was James Farrior. The candidate for the next generation inside backer is 2014 1st-round pick Ryan Shazier.

In his rookie year last year, it looked like right about the time he started to get it, he got injured. But from what I’ve seen this preseason, Shazier looks like a budding superstar inside linebacker. In the Steelers’ third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, Shazier looked like the best defender on the field.

He was all over the place, consistently wreaking havoc on their running-and short-passing games. In the process, he showed the speed that made him the No. 15 overall pick in the 2014 draft. From Lambert, to Kirkland, to Farrior, to Shazier, who looks like he’s ready to be the next man in the middle.

Next: Bud Dupree