Linebacker Ryan Shazier’s interception off Robert Griffin III during Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Browns broke a deadlock between the team’s secondary and linebacking core. Shazier’s interception marked the seventh for the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacking core, pushing it ahead of the six total from the secondary. This would mark the first time in Steelers history that the linebackers have tallied more interceptions than the secondary.
Thanks to our good friends over at Pro Football Reference, the resources to conduct this research was possible. Even dating back all the ways to the days of the Steel Curtain, no Steelers’ linebacking core has ever outmatched the secondary in interceptions. One reason for this is due to the Steelers’ having a consistent ball-hawk in the secondary over the years, such as Troy Polamalu, Rod Woodson and Mel Blount.
With The Steelers’ secondary in a transitional phase as they continue to hope rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis can continue the line of play-makers, linebackers such as Shazier and Lawrence Timmons have filled in nicely.
The Steelers duo of inside linebackers are responsible for five of the linebacking unit’s seven total interceptions, but the contributions from Shazier and Timmons go farther than that. They have also combined for six sacks, four forced fumbles and 14 passes defended.
Now while Shazier and Timmons have led the Steelers’ linebackers to an incredible feat and their most interceptions as a core since 2006, this is not a feat that should happen again anytime in the near future. Fear not, this should not come as a disappointment but as excitement for Steelers fans reading.
When it comes to defense, the only thing better than having a couple play-makers is having a couple more play-makers. With the maturation of Burns and Davis in the coming seasons, the Steelers could be looking at not two, but potentially four play-makers lined up on defense. And if history has taught us anything, it is that the Steelers’ are most dangerous when they feature a fearsome linebacking core to compliment an opportunistic secondary.