I’m really excited to break the play down but we’re not going to focus on the X’s and O’s of Ryan Shazier’s interception Sunday afternoon.
Because, if you didn’t notice, it was another interception. That gives him four on the season, regular season and playoff, and one in three straight games.
So I did some research, stats on the weird on ‘roids, of how rare all that is.
The last Steelers’ linebacker with four interceptions in a season (regular season and playoffs)? James Farrior in 2004.
The last defensive Steeler with an interception in three straight games? Troy Polamalu in 2008
The last Steelers’ linebacker with an interception in three straight games? No one.
First ever. At least, as far as I could tell. Maybe – because I know we have some football historians on here – Jerry Shipkey did so in the 1950s. But in the era almost all of us can remember, Shazier is the first. Not Farrior. Not Jack Lambert. Or Jack Ham. Or even Andy Russell. Shazier stands all alone.
His impact has been felt as much as anyone’s over the last month of the season, maybe even this whole winning streak. The run defense has been reinforced and though he’ll miss his fair share of tackles, Shazier will make just as many nobody else on the team could even dream of. He’s a disruptive force and that was evident again against the Miami Dolphins, muting Jay Ajayi as well as anyone has since he got hot in that first meeting with Pittsburgh three months ago.
Shazier has been strong in coverage and made another spectacular play against Matt Moore. We’ll break it down later today or tomorrow but he faked a blitz up the middle, flipped his hips, and dropped into his hook zone in coverage. Moore never saw it, tossing the ball right to him, and picking it off. Pittsburgh would score on their drive, go up 29-6, and essentially end the game as the third quarter came to a close.
You can thank Shazier for that.
Also thank him for playing peacekeeper when Sunday’s game got testy, stepping in and authoritatively keeping players away from any scuffle. He knew as well as anyone dumb penalties and post-whistle scrums was a surefire way to keep the Dolphins hanging around. And he had none of it.
He showed that following Bud Dupree’s crushing hit on Moore. Miami took understandable exception, drawing a flag of their own, and Shazier backed Dupree out of the pile.
He’s growing as a player and a leader. Already getting signaled in the plays since last year, he’s gotten better seemingly by the game. He’s no longer just an athlete. He’s a linebacker, true to Pittsburgh, but with his own spin. More speed and athleticism than anyone’s seen but the same tenacity, fearlessness, and production as those before him.