Ben Roethlisberger said he had no idea who Ryan Shazier was when the Steelers used their first-round draft choice on a linebacker from Ohio State. Roethlisberger said he had to call his agent to get the scoop.
All Roethlisberger has to do now is ask LeGarrette Blount, who got an up-close look at Shazier in the backs-on-backers drill Monday afternoon in the first practice in pads at training camp.
Shazier twice beat Blount with speed moves, making the veteran running back look bad. On the third go-round, Blount stepped up and popped Shazier before he could make a move.
Still, two out of three against a veteran was a good way for Shazier to make a good first impression.
“He got my attention on the first couple,” Blount said. “As a football player, it’s in your nature not to lose. I just have to make sure I get him before he gets off the line. He’s a quick kid. Obviously, I’m not as quick as he is, so I have to get to him before he makes his move. He’s really quick, he’s really fast. He makes plays.”
Blount wasn’t the only one who came away impressed.
“He did some nice things,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility.”
In the backs-on-backers drill, linebackers line up across from running backs and tight ends and attempt to beat them with a pass-rush move to get to the quarterback. Assistant linebackers coach Joey Porter spent the drill instructing the linebackers in an entertaining fashion. He exhorted Shazier to use his speed to his advantage.
“He could be 10 miles away, and you’d hear coach Porter,” Shazier said. “He just says, ‘Use what you know best.’
“I’m going to try to use [speed] as much as possible. I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do. I’m going to try to use my God-given abilities to help my team.”
Williams looks to impress
Defensive end Nick Williams, whose rookie season was wiped out by a knee injury, likely is more thankful than most players to be back on the practice field.
Williams, a seventh-round pick from Samford University in 2013, had surgery in October to repair patellar instability caused by a kneecap subluxation in his left leg. Williams originally was placed on the injured-reserve list in late August, but didn’t have surgery for nearly two months because his knee wasn’t progressing.
Williams was on crutches until March because he had screws implanted in his knee. That’s why he missed most, if not all, of the team’s offseason training activities and minicamp. But he said he is back doing everything and hoping to gain one of the defensive end spots on the 53-man roster.
“It was a tough year, but there are pros and cons to it,” Williams said. “The pro was I got to get in the film room and learn the defense better. But our defense comes with repetitions, and that was kind of the con — missing the reps.”
Bell being cautious
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell did not practice because of tightness in his hamstring that forced him out of practice Sunday. Bell is no stranger to preseason injuries. He endured two as a rookie last year, including a sprained foot that forced him to miss the first three regular-season games.
But Bell never has pulled a hamstring, and he doesn’t want it to happen for the first time this training camp.
“I never hurt my hamstrings in college,” Bell said. “I’ve felt this kind of tightness before. I’m just being safe about it and not try to over-exhaust myself before anything gets started.
“I learned a lot from last year. I’m making sure my body is taken care of. We’re just getting started. I want to make sure everything is good and make sure my body is healed.”
Rookie LB Jordan Zumwalt left practice with tightness in his groin and did not return. Tomlin said he is being evaluated. … Starting left guard Ramon Foster returned to the team after the sudden death of his mother, but he did not practice. For the second consecutive day, Chris Hubbard, who spent last season on the practice squad, took the reps with the first-team offense in place of Foster. … In team drills, second-year safety Shamarko Thomas, 5 feet 9, 217 pounds, bull-rushed 6-7, 323-pound right tackle Mike Adams and drove him to the turf.