We all know that Pro Football Focus has become either a fan favorite or a boogeyman depending on who you ask—and often seemingly depending on whether or not their data corroborates a previously-held belief—but we still feel it worthwhile to pass along interesting bits of information that they supply pertaining to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One such piece of data caught my eye last night, as they posted a graphic purported to tout the greatest—or highest-graded—playoff performances by inside linebackers during the ‘Pro Football Focus era’, which expands back to the 2006 season when they began tracking data. His grade from that performance? 99.9.
The highest-graded playoff performances by linebackers: pic.twitter.com/TFVptuHKmB
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 17, 2017
Second on the list was former New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, who posted a grade of 96.6 in the 2013 Divisional Round against the Colts. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman registered a 96.1 grade for his efforts against the Falcons in the 2012 NFC Conference Championship game.
Shazier’s performance? Better than theirs. Better than everybody’s in the past decade-plus, at least according to their data. So let’s take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to like 16 or so months ago, and look back at Shazier’s play in that game, which was the first playoff start of his career.
During that contest against the rival Cincinnati Bengals, the former first-round draft pick recorded a game-high 13 tackles, including nine solo tackles. He recorded two passes defensed and he also forced two fumbles, both of which the Steelers recovered. The second fumble came as the Bengals were essentially trying to run out the clock and win the game.
By my count, 10 of Shazier’s tackles would be regarded as unsuccessful plays for the offense, with one of the few successes being a six-yard quarterback scramble on second and six. He even had a couple of other tackles that were negated by penalties. He recorded a pressure as a pass rusher that forced an incomplete pass on second and long to boot.
Conveniently, though not surprisingly, I happened to do a film breakdown of that performance after the game, which you can look back on here. This is how I ended that article:
“And you’ll notice that I didn’t even bother including his two big forced fumbles, which were crucial moments in this game. That is just a testament to how well he played”.