How impressive was Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Ryan Shazier in his pro debut Saturday night?
Well, he might have increased the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.
How can that be? How can a rookie boost the Steelers’ playoff stock by playing 37 snaps in a preseason game?
Because it seems that the more a Steelers’ first-round draft pick contributes as a rookie, the better the Steelers do that season.
Shazier made nine tackles in the Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field. That’s five more than anyone else in the game, according to NFL.com. He also intercepted a pass.
The rookie inside linebacker is likely to start in Week 1. He’d be the first Steelers rookie to start an opener since Maurkice Pouncey in 2010. That’s also the last time the Steelers reached a Super Bowl.
The Steelers’ first-round picks in 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined for 11 starts as rookies. The Steelers were one-and-done in the playoffs in 2011 and missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013.
A first-round pick is just one cog in the machine. A team’s success rides on a lot more than one player. However, every time the Steelers’ top pick has started at least 10 games since 2001, the Steelers have won at least one playoff game.
If Shazier continues to play the way he did Saturday, that bodes well for the Steelers’ 2014 season.
So let’s test this theory by taking a look at all the Steelers’ first-round draft picks since the turn of the century as well as how the Steelers did the year they were drafted. This will cover all of Kevin Colbert’s drafts, since he became the team’s director of football operations in 2000.