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Friday’s NFL: Steelers can’t replace Ryan Shazier

Detroit News wire services

Ryan Shazier is neither gone nor forgotten. The linebacker remains a fixture at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facility as he continues his recovery from spinal surgery last December that left his football future uncertain at best.

There is a sense of loss, but no sense of panic. The Steelers understand there is no one player that has Shazier’s mix of speed and smarts. So they’re not even going to try to replace him.

Expect a group that includes free-agent signee Jon Bostic, Tyler Matakevich and possibly even rookie Terrell Edmunds as part of the committee that will be in Shazier’s spot at inside linebacker when the defending AFC North champions open the 2018 season in Cleveland.

The front office felt so comfortable with the idea it passed on selecting a linebacker in last month’s draft, the first time in nearly a decade the Steelers didn’t use one of their picks on a position coach Mike Tomlin considers among the most vital.

That’s fine by Bostic. The well-traveled 27-year-old signed a two-year deal in March following a productive if injury marred season in Indianapolis. Bostic’s arrival appeared to be for depth purposes but when the draft came and went, he now finds himself with as good a shot as anyone as lining up next to veteran Vince Williams. While he kept tabs on the draft, he didn’t exactly celebrate when Pittsburgh didn’t pick up a linebacker.

Cases against Foster decline

ReubenFoster’s misdemeanor marijuana case in Alabama was dismissed Friday after the 49ers linebacker completed a diversion course there.

Tuscaloosa County Assistant District Attorney Hunter Brown said that Foster took a substance-abuse course and successfully passed drug screenings as part of the program. Brown said Foster was able to complete the program remotely, something that is commonplace in Tuscaloosa given the number of college students who live elsewhere. Foster played at the University of Alabama and was arrested there on Jan. 12.

That reduced the number of pending charges against Foster, which just a few days ago was four, to one. Earlier this week, a judge in Santa Clara County threw out the two charges relating to domestic violence that had been waged against Foster. She also reduced the illegal firearms charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Foster has a June 6 court date to address that charge.

Foster, who agreed to stay away from the team facility while his domestic violence case was being considered, returned to the team on Thursday.

Though Foster no longer is facing a marijuana charge in Alabama, he is subject to review under league’s substance abuse policy and could be suspended a number of games for that. Foster also failed a drug test at the 2017 scouting combine due to a diluted sample taken then and presumably entered the NFL’s substance abuse program at that point.

Hurns succeeds Bryant

If not for a snowstorm in New York in March, wide receiver Allen Hurns probably wouldn’t be with the Dallas Cowboys.

The New York Jets already had an offer on the table but a canceled flight, which allowed him to visit to the Cowboys first, set the stage for him eventually signing with Dallas as the primary replacement for Dez Bryant.

But even that wasn’t his plan. He thought he was coming to Dallas to play with Bryant.

He’s now the top name on a nondescript receiver corps looking to find an identity without the Cowboys’ all-time leader in touchdown receptions.

As for pressure to replace Bryant, who was released April 13?

“I don’t feel any pressure at all,” Hurns said. “Pressure comes when people have high expectations of you. I have always held myself to a higher standard. I felt it was a big opportunity to come to Dallas to play with Dez. But with him not be here, it’s a bigger opportunity.”

Extra points

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed rookie receiver DJ Chark to a four-year contract worth about $4.5 million.

... The Green Bay Packers have signed tight end Marcedes Lewis, adding another veteran to back up Jimmy Graham.