Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is having a career season. With 10 tackles in his team’s 40-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, Shazier has already topped his career high. The Pittsburgh defense made life miserable for Marcus Mariota, sacking him five times while intercepting four of his passes, pushing the Steelers to 8-2, tied for the best record in the AFC. But playing their best football of the season isn’t good enough for Shazier.
“It definitely gave everybody a look of how our team can be,” Shazier told The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday. “We just have so much to still work on. Our potential is so high and people don’t understand that when we get everything clicking, I don’t think people can touch us.”
The 2016 Pro Bowler explained the areas of improvement he needs from his defense.
“We gave up a few big plays that we definitely want to work on,” Shazier said. “Some of those big plays could kind of bite you in the butt later on in the season, especially when you’re playing really good teams. And then we got to do a better job of tackling. I think we lead the NFL in missed tackles. It’s a good and bad thing. Because we know that guys are running to the ball, but if we do a better job of tackling, in general, some of the plays that people might get made of three yards they turn it into seven yards. That can help us a lot more. We can put them in tougher situations.”
The Steelers are giving up just 16.5 points per game, good for second in the NFL in scoring defense. While he’s played on some excellent units since arriving in Pittsburgh, the former first rounder out of Ohio State thinks this could be the best defense he’s played on.
“Personally, I feel like this is the best defense I’ve been on,” Shazier said. “The defenses I’ve been on before, they’ve had Hall of Famers and guys who will have gold jackets and who won Super Bowls. But honestly, this is the best defense I’ve ever been on—college, pro, and high school.”
That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement. While accountability has been key for this defense, one big step on this unit getting better is the fact that Shazier’s play has taken a huge step forward as well.
“The defense is so much above what it was when I was a rookie, and I could definitely say that I was probably a part of that (problem). Because I started as a rookie—as an inside linebacker, and helping making calls. And we had a veteran defense. But at the end of the day when you have such a young guy in there, trying to control the offense, you know they (coaches) have to control the type of defense, control the plays they put in, and control how much they put in.
“I don’t know if it was me holding us back or not, but I know that the understanding of this defense, with all the young guys that we have now, is way above the way it was when I played the first few years.”