Carolina Panthers v Pittsburgh Steelers
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs during the second quarter of a game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on August 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Ryan Shazier Key to Steelers’ Week Two Win

As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take the field for their home opener against the San Francisco 49ers, it is becoming more apparent that one defensive player will be the difference between evening their record or starting 0-2: sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers have struggled mightily against mobile quarterbacks in recent years, and if he isn’t properly contained, the supremely talented Colin Kaepernick could have a monster day both through the air and on the ground against Pittsburgh’s raw, inexperienced front seven.

Enter Ryan Shazier: one of the most exciting, dynamic and potential-filled prospects in not only Pittsburgh, but also the entire NFL.

The freakishly quick but surprisingly strong linebacker was just about the only Steelers defender that looked worthy of a starting role last week against the Patriots. Shazier read several plays brilliantly, exploding into the backfield to tackle the ball carrier for a loss and really stifle a couple of promising New England drives.

While his athleticism has always been there, Shazier’s improved ability to diagnose plays makes him the man to spy Kaepernick and limit any attempts to run should the passing play break down.

It was already reported through the week that backup quarterback Michael Vick played the role of Kap in practice. And while he may no longer be the Madden 04-esque dual threat he once was, Vick’s contribution shows the Steelers are well aware of the San Fran signal caller’s dangerous skill set.

Despite a solid performance last week, Kaepernick has shown a tendency to make poor decisions in the past if the safety net that is his elusiveness is taken away from him.

The secondary will certainly need to do its job in making Kap want to tuck and run in the first place, but it could just be a well-timed splash play by Shazier that seals the win in this critical early-season encounter.

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