As of this writing, Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier actually ranks in the top five of the league in total tackles with 45 through five games. This is the first time in his career, as far as I’m aware, that he has been ranked this far into a season—because he hasn’t been healthy at this point before.
In fact, the run of health that he is currently on his unprecedented in his career, as today will be his 16th consecutive game played in the regular season dating back to last year, and his 15th consecutive start. If you through in the postseason numbers, that is 19 straight games played, and 18 straight starts.
16 games, by the way, just so happens to be the length of a season, so it’s a notable mile marker.
Considering that things got off on the wrong foot with Shazier missing most of training camp and the preseason due to injuries, that should not be discounted. As I have previously written this season, Shazier has never made it this far into a season remaining healthy.
This is the longest run of health that the former first-round pick has been on to date, previously playing in 13 straight regular season games between the end of the 2015 season and the start of the 2016 season. But since returning to the starting lineup full-time after the bye week last year, he has hardly come off the field.
If I’m not mistaken, I think that he may have missed just one snap so far all season, that coming toward the end of the Ravens game, on which Tyler Matakevich came in for him on one play. Other than that, he has been an ironman of sorts, as Chris Adamski points out, which is frankly something that many have doubted would ever be said of him.
Equally important of course is what he has been doing with the snaps that he has gotten, and though he is still awaiting his first sack of the season, which will inevitably come—Vince Williams has two in the meantime—the 2016 Pro Bowler is averaging nine tackles per game. He has two forced fumbles, one recovery, two interceptions, and six passes defensed on the year to date.
Through five games, he is already more than halfway there to surpassing his previous career-best tackle total of 87, which he has recorded in each of the past two seasons. While he had “only” eight on Sunday, he has recorded 10 or more tackles twice already.
His play today will be critical in containing the Chiefs’ suddenly explosive offense, who now have weapons all over the field that can do damage in a hurry with Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce. It will be up to him to try to limit that damage.