Ryan Shazier had just forced two crucial turnovers and was arguably the player of the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs. While his play was not enough to keep the Steelers in the NFL tournament, it did put a solid display of just how athletic he is and why Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler and the Pittsburgh staff have been so adamant about getting him playing time.
We take a look at some of those plays from last weekend's game:
This play forced one of the early field goals when the Broncos were able to start at the Steelers' 30 yard line. Normally a dump off pass to a fast running back against a zone coverage scheme gets this first down, but Shazier's speed closes the space and forces a fourth down in a key situation. This is one of the many reasons Pittsburgh drafted him so high, as his range of coverage will start to be respected more by offenses in the NFL.
Watch how Shazier quickly diagnoses this play. He flows with the steps of the Broncos' offensive line then as soon as he sees the hand off he can slash his way around the protection and snag Ronnie Hillman right at the line of scrimmage. This is something the Steelers came to expect of Troy Polamalu over the years.
Though the Broncos would later score on this drive, Shazier's play from the edge is great. He gets in position, and explodes through the ball carrier, shutting down the play before it starts. Also take note on how Emmanuel Sanders obviously wanted no parts of Shazier in his pseudo block attempt.
Shazier's playoff performance for Pittsburgh was top of the line and a perfect example of why the Steelers have been so high on him. If he can stay healthy all of 2016 he could become one of the more highly touted defenders in the NFL.