Wake up: Ryan Shazier’s coaching sessions for Steelers begin early

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As an early-rising coach who has game footage ready to go at 7:30 a.m. sharp.

“He does the same prep as if he were playing that week,” Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich said.

While on injured reserve for the 2018 season as he recovers from spinal stabilization surgery, Shazier is fulfilling his role as an unofficial linebackers coach. The 26-year-old is unavailable for interviews, but to hear teammates tell it, Shazier takes detailed notes from the defensive coaches’ meetings and brings them to his linebackers on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings.

This group of eight players will essentially hear from Shazier before Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to start the week’s game prep.5

Teammates always respected the two-time Pro Bowler’s football acumen, but it turns out Shazier has inherited a coach’s touch.

“He’s running the film, going through calls, telling us what he sees,” linebacker Anthony Chickillo said. “We really respect his football mind. He can talk about it all day. Anything he says, all the linebackers trust.”

Shazier, who received his $8.7 million salary in advance of the season as a good-faith gesture from the Steelers, is a fixture at the team facility. He observes practices and hangs out with players in the locker room, giving words of encouragement when needed. His rehab progress has been impressive. The fear of paralysis was real in the days after the injury, but now Shazier walks without a cane and works out in the Steelers’ weight room.

But he’s a football guy at the core, and when the linebackers decided they wanted to spend more time together during the week, Shazier was a natural catalyst.

“He’s so knowledgeable. Why would you waste that?” said Vince Williams, a close friend of Shazier’s who has taken over playcalling duties at inside linebacker. “We’re already here most of the time, so we go into our own meetings and everybody brings what they have to the table. We have Ryan run it because he’s unbiased. When you’re not playing, you can see it more globally. Sometimes when you watch independent film study, you’re watching what you have to do. He brings a general understanding.”