The Pittsburgh Steelers have platooned over the course of the past four and a half weeks at the inside linebacker position with rookie starter Ryan Shazier sidelined with a knee injury. The primary replacement through that period was Sean Spence, who started all four games missed, but Vince Williams also saw a comfortable amount of playing time.
With Shazier finally back in the eight game of his rookie season, the Steelers continued to platoon in order to ease him back into the fold, dividing the snaps between himself and Williams, with Spence also logging one snap.
And especially for his first game back, he did quite well for himself, particularly in coverage, where he spent most of his time. On the Indianapolis Colts’ opening drive, they used a long explosive play to get down the field in short order.
With first and 10 on the 20-yard line, Andrew Luck found his running back on a short pass in the middle of the field, but both inside linebackers were patrolling the area and ready to close. Lawrence Timmons was the closer player, but Shazier finished the tackle after five yards and helped hold Indianapolis to a field goal.
Later in the first quarter, on the opening play of the Colts’ second drive, they tried to run a screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw with the Steelers rushing five, but Shazier was able to get up to the line quickly, and brought the running back down for no gain.
The Colts went back to the running back screen early in the second quarter, this time with Dan Herron, on the first play of their shortest drive of the game, which ended on the second play with a pick six.
On first down from the 23-yard line, the Steelers rushed four, with Jason Worilds peeling off to cover the tight end. Shazier dropped slightly while keeping his eyes forward on the running back, and once he saw Luck’s arm drop back, he started to close, showing off his burst and making the wrap up tackle after a modest gain.
The Steelers began the second half with the ball, and were able to take it all the way for a touchdown to extend their already significant lead. Shazier nearly gave Pittsburgh the chance to extend that on the Colts’ ensuing drive while covering Luck’s tight end coming across the field from the left side.
Facing pressure, Luck’s throw was slightly off target, and Shazier beat the tight end to the spot, getting a hand on it, but it was out of range for an interception.
Midway through the same quarter, the Steelers sent the rookie on one of only a small handful of blitzes, a feature in his repertoire that will likely be expanded with time. On this rush, however, he was able to draw pressure, storming the A Gap and blowing up the running back, registering a quarterback hit, even though the pass was completed.