There’s no denying Ryan Shazier had one of the games of his life Saturday night in Cincinnati. Without him, we’re telling a starkly different story. One where the Steelers are at home, not preparing for Denver. One where Vontaze Burfict, as Dave and Dave talked about yesterday, plays the role of hero, not goat.
Just be hopeful we can see more games like that from Shazier.
Mike Tomlin was asked about the linebacker’s play and attributed it largely for being healthy and available.
“It’s all about availability,” he said at his Tuesday presser.
“His pedigree is his pedigree. His growth and development largely is going to be effected by his ability to stay available. When he misses time with a injury, it slows that development. When he’s available to us he fluidly goes through that process and he’s that player he knows he is and that we know he is capable of being.”
Shazier finished the win over the Bengals with 13 tackles, 2 TFL, and 2 FFs, including the one on Jeremy Hill to set up the Steelers’ game-winning drive.
And while we’re talking about an injury, freak, unlucky occurrences, Tomlin noted there’s also the factor of doing everything you can as a player to take care of your body.
“The big thing for him, and some if it is outside his control, is to continue to do everything in his power to remain injury free and practice. And take snaps because there’s no substitute for experience. The more experience he gains, the more his pedigree and knowledge and abilities are going to show.”
The Steelers have done some personnel things to manage him. During the regular season, he was held out of one day of practice each week. That isn’t ideal, especially in Tomlin’s admittance of practice being the key to progression, but a calculated, pragmatic approach to limit that wear and tear.
He’s seen some reduction in his snaps to Vince Williams and Sean Spence, though Shazier played every single snap Saturday, They’ve also taken him off the kick coverage unit, where he suffered a concussion against the Seattle Seahawks. Even when the Steelers were thin on the depth chart in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns, it was Will Johnson – who hadn’t played on that unit all season – and not Shazier taking the field.