NFL Football

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier returns to practice

By DAN SCIFO

Associated Press

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers were set to break camp and return home, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was just glad to be back on the field.

Shazier fully practiced during the Steelers last day in Latrobe after missing the previous two weeks with a slight hamstring pull.

"I was telling the guys on the sideline that I was so thankful to be back in the mix," Shazier said after Friday's practice. "It was great to be back out there, running around and seeing football from the inside of my helmet instead of from the sideline."

Shazier said he isn't playing in the team's second preseason game on Sunday when the Steelers host the Atlanta Falcons. Though he admitted to feeling behind, the fourth-year linebacker believes he can catch up.

"I missed a lot of reps in camp this year, so I'm trying to do everything I can to improve," Shazier said. "I haven't tackled anybody in camp, so you have to get used to tackling people and the feel of getting banged up and getting in the grind with everybody."

That's equally important with a new partner on the inside.

Shazier played his first three seasons alongside Lawrence Timmons, but he left for Miami in free agency. His replacement, Vince Williams, isn't new to the Steelers, but he's new to the full-time starting job after primarily spending his first four seasons as the team's top backup.

"I feel really comfortable with Vince," Shazier said. "At the end of the day, you're going to need reps with your partner on the field, but honestly I don't think I need as many as I did before."

Shazier, the Steelers' 2014 first-round pick, enjoyed a career season, finishing second on the team with 87 tackles. He also tied a single-season career high with 3+ sacks and set a personal best with five interceptions, including a streak of three straight that extended into the playoffs.

More importantly, he stayed healthy after missing 11 games in his first two seasons. Shazier played the final 10 games of the regular season in 2016 and all three in the playoffs after dealing with a knee injury early in the season.

Now, he's looking to put the training camp setback in the past, too.

"At the end of the day, you always get down on yourself, and it kind of (stinks) when you go through those types of things," Shazier said. "But you have to have a great mindset and a great team around you to help you stay focused."

NOTES: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown will not play against the Falcons. ... Rookie fourth-round pick Josh Dobbs will start at quarterback and third-round pick RB James Conner will also play for the first time in the preseason.

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Updated August 18, 2017

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