New Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic not looking to ‘replace’ Ryan Shazier

March 31, 2018 GMT

Jon Bostic will get a chance to take over Ryan Shazier’s spot at inside linebacker next season with the Steelers.

Take over. Not replace the two-time Pro Bowl player.

“I would never say replace,” Bostic said Monday after signing a two-year contract with the Steelers. “He’s a special player, and I’m sure he’s definitely going to be back at some point.”

With Shazier ruled out for the 2018 season because of his spinal cord injury, the Steelers made their first move of the offseason to fill his spot when they signed Bostic, who is joining his fifth organization in six seasons.

“For me, all I’m supposed to do is come in here and work hard,” Bostic said. “Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to do it. Whatever position it is. I’m a guy that has a lot of versatility. I can do a lot of different things.”

Bostic, 26, is a 6-foot-1, 242-pound linebacker who has played in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. He will give the Steelers a veteran option to pair inside with Vince Williams, and he has experience calling the defensive signals, a role Shazier held.

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In 2013, the year before the Steelers selected Shazier with the No. 15 overall pick, the Bears took Bostic in the second round. Bostic, though, never enjoyed the type of success Shazier had with the Steelers.

Because of injuries, he has bounced from franchise to franchise, and he hasn’t played in all 16 games since his rookie season.

There was an alignment issue in his second year with the Bears that Bostic said was the result of being bowlegged and pigeon-toed as a child. In 2015, it was a knee injury that kept him from playing for the Bears, who traded him in September to the New England Patriots. He missed the entire 2016 season with a broken foot.

Even last season, when he had a career-high 97 tackles with the Indianapolis Colts, Bostic spent the final two games on injured reserve with a knee injury. He said the Colts overreacted by placing him on injured reserve.

“I just got rolled up on,” he said. “I could have come back and played in the last game. I’m healthy. I’ve been running, cutting, doing everything.”

Bostic’s signing became official Monday when he passed a physical. He hopes that is the only time he’s in the trainer’s room this year.

“I think all that stuff is behind me,” Bostic said.

Bostic said prior to his back injury with the Bears, he hadn’t missed a game because of injury since he was in ninth grade.

Bostic is the son of an NFL player. John Bostic was a defensive back for the Detroit Lions from 1985-87 and got his doctorate in pharmacy after his playing career ended. John Bostic didn’t exactly want his eldest son following in his football footsteps.

“He wanted me to play baseball,” Jon Bostic said.

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Bostic went to high school in Wellington, Fla., the same fertile baseball area that produced former Pirates first-round draft picks Bobby Bradley and Sean Burnett. It was Bostic’s mother who signed him up for football, and he was good enough to play at Florida alongside new teammates Joe Haden, Marcus Gilbert and Maurkice Pouncey.

“I had a thing for running into people full speed,” Bostic said, laughing. “I ran away with this. It’s something I love to do, but my dad has always helped me out. Going to college, he didn’t care if I played one down of football. At the end of the day, I was going there to graduate.”

After Shazier was injured in early December, the Steelers couldn’t fill his spot with one player.

Sean Spence, signed off the street, played mostly on first and second downs, with L.J. Fort taking over on passing downs, and the defense struggled down the stretch.

Bostic thinks he can provide some stability to the position, which the Steelers also expect to address early in the draft.

“I’m a three-down player. I never came off the field (last year),” he said. “I played the Mike and Will positions there. It’s a little different here, but technically it’s the same thing. I called all the plays, covered as well. A lot of people don’t really know I can do that because I played so much Tampa 2 early in my career in Chicago.

“They don’t have anything here that is set. They are going to see what you can do well and put you in a position to succeed.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.