Ryan Shazier has been in the league for three years now, but the longest consecutive streak of games that he has played in and started for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a single season is just 12, including the postseason. Overall, it is 15 games, not even a full season’s worth.
One of the aspects about the young and supremely talented inside linebacker’s injury history that we haven’t really talked about a whole lot is how there is a bit of a correlation between how long he has remained healthy and how well he has played.
“I definitely feel I start to catch fire and get a little bit of rhythm”, Shazier told Jeremy Fowler last month for ESPN during the Steelers’ team drills. He started 12 consecutive games in 2016 from Week Nine, after the Bye, through the team’s three-game postseason run, and it featured some of the best football of his career.
He recorded 82 tackles during that span, averaging nearly seven per game, adding all of his three and a half sacks and four of his five interceptions, as well as two of his three forced fumbles and eight of his 11 passes defensed.
In general, there is a trend upward the longer he plays healthy. The last four games of the regular season, he had at least eight tackles three times with two sacks and two interceptions. He would record an interception in each of his first two postseason games as well.
You can see that in 2015 as well. He posted 13-tackle games twice in a three-game span late in the season, recording three of his five turnovers in his final four games. The only discrepancy there is that most of his sacks came earlier in the year.
So, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but the further away Shazier gets from his injuries, the better he plays. But, as he said previously, he is hoping to avoid the injuries altogether in 2017. “I just want to have a full year in general just for myself”, he said. “I feel like I have the capability of being one of the best players in the NFL. People can’t really see what I can do when I’m not on the field. Your best ability is availability”.
He believes the key to unlocking his game-to-game consistency is simply being on the field and healthy for those games. He told Fowler, playing a full season “’would just show my consistency of being able to be a playmaker for this team, cause turnovers, get the offense back the ball, show people in the league that I can be a dynamic player”.