2017 Midseason Player Evaluations: ILB Ryan Shazier

With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.

The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.

The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.

Player: Ryan Shazier, ILB

If Cameron Heyward is not the most valuable player on the Steelers’ defense this year, than Ryan Shazier is. He leads the team and is on pace to blow past his previous best with 64 tackles halfway through the year. He has also forced a pair of fumbles and intercepted two passes while recording eight passes defensed.

The only thing really that he has not done yet this year is register a sack, which is odd, considering that he has had three and a half sacks in each of the past two seasons. And to be clear, that is not to suggest by any means that he has not been an effective blitzer this year. He has, and he has gotten pressure.

Shazier brings to the table a skill set that very few in the league could even hope to match, offering unparalleled speed for the position from sideline to sideline with the power to also take on blockers, which has grown over the course of his four-year career, and which we are seeing more of in 2017 in particular.

The big story of the first half of his season, though, is pretty simple. He’s been healthy. I think he has literally missed one snap the entire year, coming off the field for one play late in the fourth quarter against the Ravens when he got nicked up.

In fact, including the postseason, Shazier has now played in and started 20 consecutive games dating back to the middle of last season, which is a pretty big deal, if you consider his prior injury history—which is always the part of the conversation whenever he is being discussed.

It wouldn’t be accurate to suggest that he has been flawless-far from it—but he has been one of the biggest assets on the entire roster by far. That said, there is room for improvement.

Earlier this year, Keith Butler said that he wanted Shazier to stop guessing and start anticipating. He does take gambles, and they don’t always work, and sometimes lead to big plays. He also misses a lot of tackles—many of which, to be fair, most wouldn’t even be in a position to attempt. But on the flip side, he also has five tackles for loss.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Nathanael Dory

    He is a PBowler this season

  • ryan72384

    If Shazier could ever get 6 to 8 sacks along with his interceptions that he always seems to grab he would be In the discussion for DPOY.

  • Xclewsive

    It’s not the sacks but the Ints for me. Get 2-4 more Ints with a TD or two and watch out.

  • 太阳三联

    Had a pick six against the lions last week wish he got that

  • Steeler Nation!

    6-8 sacks is a high # for an ILB who is often in coverage. He has always done a good job blitzing, but he isn’t an OLB that is going after the QB more often than not. As noted, his “missed” tackles are often of the variety that other LBs wouldn’t even be in the vacinity. He’s a keeper, and we’re about to pay up.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Yeah I think some have been a little crazy with the DPotY talk. He has been good but he definitely doesn’t feel like a game changer you would expect to get the award. I don’t think he has reached the level offenses are specifically planning around either. Those are the guys in the talks for the award.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Because most of the award winners have something to do with rushing the QB or are DBs. He is a difference maker for our defense for sure. Without him we would be in trouble for sure.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Yeah it isn’t to say he doesn’t help us a lot, just that he doesn’t really stand out as the kind of guy deserving of the award.

  • Brenton deed

    I get the sense that after starting behind C J Mosley he’s drawn level and is now taking a lead … is this fair or am I hopelessly biased?

  • Milton Farfara

    No you’re not biased. I agree with you. The first couple years due,in my opinion to injuries you could say Mosley was better but so far this year Shazier has definately been the better of the two.