With the Pittsburgh Steelers preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, the majority of attention has been paid to the debate on which quarterback will start. It isn't much of a debate, but the health of Ben Roethlisberger is forcing the Steelers' coaching staff to choose between Roethlisberger, who is still recovering from a sprained MCL, and a healthy Landry Jones.
Throughout the media madness surrounding the potential return of No. 7 is the potential return of second year ILB Ryan Shazier. Shazier has missed the past 4 games, this coming off the best game of his career against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 when he recorded 15 tackles (11 solo), 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Those stats were all with Shazier leaving the game with his shoulder injury in the second half of the game.
Sean Spence and Vince Williams have combined to hold down the fort in Shazier's absence, but Shazier is ready to get back on the field to make plays. As excited as Shazier is to return, it might be his teammates who are equally excited to see No. 50 back making plays.
"He's ready to go out there and play," inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said after practice Thursday. "I'm just excited for him to see him go out there and ball out."
Shazier has been criticized for his lack of size, and after missing 11 of 22 games he has been on the roster for since being drafted 15th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, durability certainly is a common concern. If there is someone who knows about scrutiny and injuries, it is Jarvis Jones.
"It's a tough situation. He's going through it. I've been through it," Jones told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I got dinged up last week, so I know it's frustrating. You want to play, you want to be productive, you want to be there with your teammates. But this game has got 100 percent injury rate — and things happen. You've just got to respect the game. If you don't respect the game, the game won't respect you."
When Shazier is in the lineup, the Steelers have an extremely dynamic group of linebackers, all with a high pedigree, but his teammates realize how he takes their defense to the next level.
"It means a whole lot having ‘Sha' back," Jones said. "‘Sha' is one of those players who can really stretch the field. He can play sideline-to-sideline; he's very smart, very athletic and fast. So he's one of those exceptional players that can really get out there and make plays. He knows the game. So for ‘Sha' it's just, he's an incredible player. Stay healthy, stay on the field, and the sky's the limit for him."
The last time Shazier was on the field in a uniform, he completely took over the football game. If he is deemed healthy enough to play in Week 7, fans are anxious to see what Shazier has in store for the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. It may be time for No. 50 to return and "ball out".