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Steelers News: Ryan Shazier living up to the hype in 2017

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The former first-round draft pick is certainly living up to his advance billing.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout Ryan Shazier’s time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, there has been a lot of criticism surrounding his status with the team.

“He should be moved to safety...too small to play inside linebacker.”

“What a bust, dude is always hurt.”

“I could tackle better than Shazier.”

I could go on, but those who follow closely know exactly the kind of criticism I’m talking about. However, in 2017, Shazier is living up to the hype of his first-round pedigree.

Not only is he flying around making tackles—he’s a play-making machine. He leads the team both in tackles and interceptions, and has a knack for turning in the big play when it’s needed the most.

Coming off of a Pro-Bowl season in 2016, Shazier might be in consideration for All-Pro honors this year. It may have taken some time, but it looks as if Shazier is finally living up to the hype.

Time to check in on the news surrounding the Steelers outside the walls of BTSC:

Throughout much of the first 2 1⁄2 seasons of his career, the only thing missing from Ryan Shazier's ascension to being one of the NFL's best linebackers was Ryan Shazier — as in, his presence on the field.

But Shazier, who finished just 23 of his first 38 regular-season games, has transformed into one of the NFL's iron men.

Really.

“That's all he talks about: making sure he stays healthy,” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “So he takes care of his body. And we're better for it.”

A knee ailment in September of last season was Shazier's fifth in-season injury during the first 25 months of his career. He missed 3½ games. He was eased back into the lineup, splitting time with Vince Williams in a Week-8 loss to New England last October. Shazier started the Steelers' next game and hasn't looked back since.

His consecutive games-played streak, counting the postseason, is at 23. Shazier has started 19 games in a row, 22 counting the postseason. In that time, he's accumulated 160 tackles (117 solo), seven interceptions, 19 passes defended, 3 1⁄2sacks and four forced fumbles.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Steelers are 15-4 in the regular season (17-5 overall) since Shazier began his mini iron-man streak.

“The best Shazier,” defensive captain Cam Heyward said, “is an available Shazier.”

There's nothing like family to bring people together on Thanksgiving.

Even if it means some subtle jabs.

Texans star linebacker J.J. Watt showed what brotherly love means Thursday morning, tweeting a screenshot of a conversation with his brother, Steelers rookie linebacker T.J. Watt.

J.J. Watt broke his left leg and Oct. 8 and is out for the season. T.J. Watt has quickly risen for the Steelers and is among the most recognizable rookie names in the league.

During the texting, exchange, J.J. Watt thanks T.J. for reminding him that he's not the dumbest one in the family.

T.J. replies by thanking J.J. for making sure that T.J. is not the ugliest one in the family.

Amid those remarks were genuine exchanges of thanks.

The Steelers had the No. 28 ranked run defense after Week 5 when Leonard Fournette and the Jacksonville Jaguars gouged them for 231 rushing yards.

Since then, no opponent has topped 71 yards in a game, and the defense is allowing just 2.8 yards per carry.

That has vaulted the Steelers to No. 8 in the latest run-defense rankings.

"I think guys are doing what they're supposed to and being in the right gaps and trusting each other," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "The thing that we talk about here a lot is selflessness. We've got to be selfless when we play, meaning that we are going to do our job first and then help a buddy after we do our job.

"The other is discipline and, of course, the last one is 'Do your job.' Those three things we talk about a lot, and I think if we do that, our guys do that, then we've got a chance to be pretty good."