Ryan Shazier Continues Role As Playmaker For Steelers Defense

I thought that Ryan Shazier got a bit too much flack for his performance against the Bears last week; while he may have missed a couple of tackles and overran a couple of other plays, not all of his perceived miscues were actually so. And he also made more than his fair share of plays, in addition.

Yesterday, the 2016 Pro Bowler played an even cleaner, and even more impactful game with 11 tackles, pacing all players short of his arch nemesis, the Ravens’ C.J. Mosley. Mosley also forced a fumble, but Shazier outdid him with an interception, as well as a pass defensed that led to a second interception, picked off by Mike Hilton.

The 2014 first-round draft pick was his usual self all over the field in Baltimore, starting off the game with a tackle for loss on the second play of the game. Only two of his tackles in this game, in fact, actually went for defensive stops, but with the Ravens throwing the ball 49 times and running 15, most of his work was in coverage.

According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted no fewer than 12 times during the game, and while he allowed receptions on nine of those targets, they did relatively little damage. The longest reception that he allowed was for just 11 yards, which came at the end of the game in garbage time.

As mentioned, Shazier got to Joe Flacco twice in the game, both coming in the fourth quarter. Early in the period, he just barely was able to complete a pass to Benjamin Watson that Shazier nearly broke up, with the tight end needing to pin the ball onto his hip while he was on the ground to secure it.

On the very next play, off play action, the Ravens’ quarterback rolled out to his left, and under minor pressure, tossed the ball to his right, again looking for Watson, but instead finding Shazier, who deftly picked off the pass and returned it to Baltimore territory.

Alex will have a full breakdown of the play tomorrow, so I don’t need to go into too much detail, but the real shame of it all is that the offense ended up squandering the field position. Le’Veon Bell picked up seven yards on first and second down, but Ben Roethlisberger misfired on what should have been a touchdown to Martavis Bryant on a deep pass on third and three.

But never to worry, as Shazier got Flacco again on the next drive. It took 10 plays, but Flacco was finally forced into an error from the Steelers’ 47-yard line looking down the field. The linebacker tipped it up in the air, where Hilton was able to seize it and return back across midfield.

This time, the offense did capitalize, helping to seal the game with another touchdown drive that made it a three-possession game and left Baltimore with just two and a half minutes to play. Those are the sort of splash plays the Steelers need from Shazier.

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