PITTSBURGH — Ryan Shazier is ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the training wheels off on Sunday against Kansas City.
The rookie linebacker Shazier has been healthy the last two weeks but has only seen limited playing time, part of a cautious approach after their first-round pick missed seven of the first 12 games due to two separate leg injuries. Shazier was relegated mostly to special teams work in wins over Cincinnati and Atlanta but was productive during limited reps with the defense, making two tackles with one quarterback pressure in just four snaps.
"I felt pretty good out there, just getting back in the groove with everything," Shazier said Friday. "So, I'm just waiting for the coaches to give me the opportunity to get in there. And when I get in there, I want to take advantage of it. So, it felt good to be back out there and get my feet back under me."
He was told that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believed Shazier will have a heavier workload as Pittsburgh (9-5) tries to lock down a playoff berth with a victory against the Chiefs (8-6).
"I'm really excited about that, because it's been hard for me this season with the injuries and not playing much the past couple weeks," Shazier said. "So I've been learning a lot from the guys in front of me, and I'm doing whatever I can to get better and help this team."
While Shazier's impact has been minimal due to a knee injury and subsequent ankle problem, LeBeau praised him.
"He did a great job on special teams, and we'd like for him to get a few more snaps than four," LeBeau said. "(But) I think, if you look at the special teams, you'll see that he was very active and very effective."
The Steelers also expect to get Marcus Gilbert back as the starting right tackle after a high ankle sprain sidelined him the past three weeks. Gilbert practiced successfully this week, but after expecting to play last Sunday only to be made inactive, he's taking a patient approach to this Sunday.
"I'm ready, but I have to take it day by day," Gilbert said. "We'll see where I'm at, but I've been feeling pretty good and hope things continue to improve. I feel good, but it was the same thing last week. I thought I was ready to go, but the film didn't show that. So, we'll see where my ankle is by the end of this week, and hopefully I'll be able to play."
Notes: SS Troy Polamalu (knee) and CB Taylor (shoulder, forearm) are doubtful for the Kansas City Chiefs game, while TE Matt Spaeth (elbow) is questionable. ... LB James Harrison (knee), FS Mike Mitchell (groin), C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) and WR Markus Wheaton (illness) are probable.