Not every Pittsburgh Steelers player has shown to be thrilled about the prospects of playing in another football game this season that is not taking place in Houston, but for at least one player, it is a big deal, and that is for third-year inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who, it was announced yesterday, will be replacing Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley for the honor.
If there was any player on the Steelers roster deserving of recognition that they were not given, it would have to be Shazier, although Marcus Gilbert could certainly make a compelling argument as well. Coincidentally, one thing that they had in common this year is that they had a period of the season in which injuries took them out of the lineup and hampered their resume as a result.
Shazier did play in a career-high 13 games this season, an improvement upon the 12 games that he played last season, and the nine from his rookie season, and this year certainly marked his best. In fact, his stat line is a striking portrayal of his exact improvement from one year to the next.
During both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Shazier officially recorded exactly 87 total tackles, with 55 solo tackles and 32 assists. In both seasons, he also recorded three and a half sacks. It’s rather unusual to see three separate numbers parallel in that fashion, but for convenience’s sake—since both seasons contained 12 starts—it is a good reference point.
In 2015, he recorded his first interception, as well as four pass deflections and two forced fumbles. This past season, he finished the regular season with three interceptions to go along with nine pass deflections, bettering himself in the forced fumble statistic as well with three.
During the postseason this year, Shazier added two more interceptions and a pair of pass deflections. He also had two pass deflections and a pair of forced fumbles during last year’s postseason, so he has been making impact plays in important games for a couple of years now.
No player wants to play in the Pro Bowl anymore, of course, and not just because of the fact the game has been stripped of much of its meaning and prestige. Those who participate in the Pro Bowl festivities are made up entirely of players from teams who are not in the Super Bowl, and you can bet that Shazier would have gladly passed up the trip to the Pro Bowl for a ticket to Houston instead.
But since that potential reality never came to be, getting the Pro-Bowl nod is a worthy consolation prize for a rising player whose reputation includes the ‘injury-prone’ label. Cracking the Pro Bowl barrier this year is a good step.
Of course, it should also not pass without mentioning that it was Mosley from the Ravens whom he is replacing, as we all know that their histories will be forever intertwined in Pittsburgh and in Baltimore. Mosley got the early upper hand, making the Pro Bowl for the second time, and the second-team All-Pro list twice, but the Steelers playmaker is closing the gap.