It’s pretty apparent that the most important player on every roster usually ends up being the quarterback. When your quarterback struggles, your team usually suffers the consequences. When your quarterback is an elite quarterback, your team usually makes a deep playoff run.
The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, so until he’s done, they don’t have much of a problem in that regard.
KDKA sports anchor Bob Pompeani posed a great question a few days back on his weekly segment on 93.7 The Fan Pittsburgh. He asked who the Steelers second most important player behind Roethlisberger was.
Some people said wide receiver Antonio Brown. Others took the obvious with Le’Veon Bell.
However, no one mentioned my choice for second most important which happens to be linebacker Ryan Shazier.
The impact Shazier has on the field is impeccable. He is one of the league’s premier playmaking linebackers and is the fastest linebacker in the NFL.
Shazier can be blitzing the quarterback one play and then dropping into coverage to help cover receivers on another.
One of his weaknesses, though, is his size.
Shazier stands at 6’1″, 230 lbs. But he doesn’t look like the prototypical linebacker when you see him. Don’t let that mistake you.
The Steelers weren’t at all concerned when they took Shazier with the 15th overall pick in 2014. Only Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr were taken ahead of the Ohio State product.
Shazier has often had troubles staying on the field due to injuries. But when he is on the field, nothing seems to be able to stop him.
In only his second career game, week 2 of 2014 against Baltimore, Shazier had 15 tackles (11 solo) despite a losing 20-6 effort. It was then that the Steelers knew they had an impactful player on the rise.
2016 was Shazier’s coming out party.
In the season opener against Washington, he had two pass deflections, forced a fumble, and picked off Kirk Cousins in a lopsided Steelers victory.
Despite missing 3 weeks due to a knee injury, Shazier finished the season with 87 combined tackles, 9 pass deflections, 3.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. He started 13 games. He also intercepted Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore in the Steelers Wildcard victory.
Just this past week, NFL analyst Pete Prisco released his list of the most overrated and underrated players on every team. While Ramon Foster was deemed the most underrated player on the Steelers’ roster, Shazier was considered by Prisco to be the team’s most overrated player.
Prisco sighted Shazier’s lack of durability to be a huge issue and that he is totally useless when injured, which is true.
But, injuries are part of the game. Shazier’s impact when he’s on the field is bigger than anyone on the Steelers’ defense. His fast and physical presence makes it tough for anyone to run on the edge without being caught. Nothing can replace his speed.
Shazier will play his fourth season in the NFL in 2017 and he’ll again be a very important piece if the Steelers want to make a run at their seventh Lombardi Trophy in honor of the late, great Dan Rooney.