Even though he did return to the lineup after missing the past three games while nursing a knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season, Pittsburgh Steelers third-year starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was not the starter for the defense yesterday evening in their efforts to slow down the Patriots offense.
In fact, based at least upon my initial impressions without having gotten the opportunity to dig too deeply into the game overnight, it seemed as though he did not play a great deal of snaps in comparison to the man that he rotated in and out with, fourth-year inside linebacker Vince Williams.
The stat line would figure to bear that out, as Shazier recorded just two tackles during the game, both assists, though he also had a notable moment in blowing up a screen pass that prevented the ball from even being caught. For his part, Williams recorded four tackles, three of them solo tackles.
It was a question, of course, as to whether or not Shazier would even play for the Steelers yesterday, or if they would let him rest and heal through the bye week, which they have next week after getting off to a 4-3 start, riding a two-game losing street, through the first ‘half’ of the season.
It should be noted that this is the first week that Shazier has participated in practice in a while. He was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he was listed as a full participant on Thursday. He was also a full participant on Friday, but Friday practices are generally walkthroughs that do not offer much in the way of physicality.
According to Chris Adamski, Shazier said after the game that the decision to use a rotation between himself and Shazier was a coaches decision, with Adamski Tweeting that “it wasn’t health related that he didn’t play all the snaps”.
But he played less than half of the snaps, unless I’m mistaken. Shazier saw his first snap of the game to start the Steelers’ third defensive series, although the first series consisted of just one play after the defense forced a fumble. He did play the entirety of that third series, on which he blew up the screen pass. He played the next series as well, which produced a three-and-out.
Williams was back in for the next drive, although Shazier did check in for the final play of the drive, which was a third-down dropped pass, and he continued into the second half, for the first two series. Unfortunately, he opened that second series with a missed tackle in the hole and then vacated the gap on the next play for a pair of big runs.
So perhaps the snaps were more evenly distributed than it initially may have seemed. But both players were used in a similar fashion, as they both spent a large percentage of their time lining up to cover the Patriots’ tight ends. He may not have had much of an impact in this game, but the good news is that he says he feels healthy.