The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will Ryan Shazier stay healthy in 2016? Is he injury-prone?
One of the biggest questions that the Steelers may be facing during the 2016 season is simply whether or not their starting mack inside linebacker, Ryan Shazier, can stay healthy. The third-year player has missed 11 games over the course of his first season, and has been limited to a total of 17 out of a possible 32 starts.
And he would indeed have been in line to start all of those games, considering that he was injected into the starting lineup from the time of his very first practice with the team as a full unit. He started the season opener, but it wasn’t long before he got injured for the first time. He re-entered the starting lineup upon his return his rookie year, but lost the job due to time missed after his second mid-season injury.
Shazier began to show for real the player that the Steelers believed they were drafting 15th overall last season, having a big game against the 49ers in the second week of the season, but that also just so happened to be when he injured himself again, suffering a shoulder injury while making a tackle in the third quarter.
He went on to miss the next four games, but when he returned he continued to play well. He did miss most of another game later in the season due to a concussion suffered on special teams, but did not miss the next game. He was instrumental in the Steelers’ Wildcard victory.
Many of the injuries that Shazier has suffered during his young career can be characterized as of at least in part a fluky nature, suggesting that there is no reason to believe that they will be likely to be repeated. There is simply a point at which you have to acknowledge the role that poor luck plays into things.
Shazier had a strong season all around considering that he missed a full quarter of it, making some impact plays, including two forced fumbles and three and a half sacks. He has the capability of logging double-digit tackles on a fairly regular basis, and figures to get back to that with a clean slate and a clean bill of health entering this season.