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With the 2021 NFL Draft a week away, Steelers.com has been doing a series with former players on their memories throughout the draft process. Teresa Varley recently interviewed former Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and he shared an interesting story on his pre-draft visit with the Steelers.
"I made a pre-draft visit to the Steelers. I was excited to come there and visit. I had a meeting with Coach (Keith) Butler. He told me I am going to be honest with you Ryan, I love how you play, but I don't know why you are here," Shazier told Varley. "We already have linebackers and I think we have some other positions that are more important. I didn't think I was going to end up with the Steelers because he said that. I knew I was one of the better players in the draft. Every kid feels like they are the best, and that is how I felt. But I am a realist too. I knew other positions would go before me. When I was getting drafted linebackers weren't going in the Top 10."
At the time, the Steelers had Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams at inside linebacker, who they drafted in the sixth-round the year before. Cornerback was also a big need for the Steelers at the time, many had Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller mocked to the Steelers. But Timmons was relatively getting older and it wasn't like Williams was a sure-fire starter, so they needed to upgrade the inside linebacker position as well.
Of course, the Steelers ended up selecting Shazier out of Ohio State at 15th overall. Fuller was selected by the Bears at 14th overall, so who knows how it would have gone down if he was available. It seemed like the Steelers had their eyes set on Shazier the whole time, however, as they love Ohio State players and selecting linebackers in the first round.
"I was surprised when the Steelers called because of what Coach Butler said," Shazier remembered. "I knew they had an interest in me because they brought me there. It was exciting. I had a lot of respect for Coach (Mike) Tomlin as a successful African American coach. Also going to an organization like the Steelers, I knew we would always be in the mix. And to have Dick LeBeau there, another Buckeye. It was a team I was excited to go to."
Maybe Butler was trying to not get Shazier's hopes up, but it just shows how unpredictable the draft process can be.