PITTSBURGH — Shaquem Griffin‘s emoji-inspiring 40 time of 4.38 seconds at the NFL combine had Ryan Shazier buzzing, and a bit motivated.

“He’s making me rush my rehab because I can’t allow him to be the fastest linebacker in the league,” Shazier told NFL Network on the combine broadcast, during which long-time Pittsburgh Steelers scout Mark Gorczak wore a “Shalieve” T-shirt while running the 40 drill.

Celebrating Shazier and Griffin on the same broadcast was fitting because of what they’ve overcome. Shazier has captivated the football world with his recovery from a severe spinal injury suffered on Dec. 4 in Cincinnati. Griffin is commanding headlines this week, recording the fastest 40 time for a linebacker in more than a decade and doing 20 bench press reps despite using a prosthetic on his left arm to attach to the bar.

Griffin, a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection the last two years out of Central Florida, is without a left hand because of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital condition that prompted amputation at age 4.

But on the field, Griffin possesses a skill set and a background that might appeal to the Steelers.

Shazier’s athleticism and range sideline to sideline has made him an elite NFL linebacker in today’s speed-centric game. His skill set made him a first-round pick in 2014. Griffin is not expected to go that high, but such a speedy playmaker would pair well in a linebacker core that features thumper/blitzer Vince Williams, do-it-all outside linebacker T.J. Watt, and Bud Dupree.

Griffin is listed as an outside linebacker, but at 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, he could slide inside in the right system. Griffin said so himself.

“Whatever you need help at, I can play at,” Griffin told reporters from the combine.

The Steelers have had success drafting and developing linebackers from Florida, where Griffin played high school ball in St. Petersburg and college at UCF.

Consider this group of linebackers from the sunshine state who suited up for the black and gold from 2015-17:

Ryan Shazier is from Plantation, Florida.

Vince Williams is from Davenport, Florida., and played college ball at FSU.

Lawrence Timmons played college ball at FSU.

Sean Spence is from Miami, where he also played college ball.

Anthony Chickillo is from Tampa and played college ball in Miami.

You get the point. If the Steelers are stockpiling defensive draft picks to bolster their back seven, Griffin could be an intriguing midround option, adding inspiration to a position that got plenty of it in 2017, thanks to Shazier.


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