Four downs: Steelers’ Ryan Shazier plays most defensive snaps in NFL
1. IRON MAN SHAZIER
Ryan Shazier and “durability” haven’t exactly been complementary terms over the course of his NFL career. The linebacker was injured for all or part of 17 of his first 38 career games after being the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2014, suffering four injuries (knee, ankle, shoulder, knee) that caused him to miss time over that span.
When Shazier missed two weeks of training camp because of a hamstring pull, some worried it would be more of the same in 2017. So far, quite the opposite. In fact, no defensive player in the NFL has been there more often for his team.
Shazier has played 318 of the Steelers’ 320 defensive snaps this season. — a 99.4 percent rate that’s tied with Cincinnati’s Nick Vigil for the most of any defender in the league, per footballoutsiders.com. Shazier has played (and started) a career-high 15 consecutive games.
2. G.O.A.T. (TIMES 2?)
Antonio Brown’s reputation as a wide receiver needs no explanation. But he is making a case to be the Steelers’ best of all time in another capacity, too.
Having regained the primary punt-returning gig (again) two weeks ago, it’s time to examine Brown’s place among the organization’s career leaders. His four touchdowns are tied with Antwaan Randle El for the team record. Last season, Brown surpassed Randle El in career punt-return yards — and he’s 649 yards behind Rod Woodson for the franchise record. If Brown has four punt returns Sunday, he will have 182 and tie Randle El for the second most in team history (75 behind Woodson for the most). Brown has the second-best yards/return average (9.6) of any of the Steelers’ top eight in punt returns.
3. the 40 in 3.71?!
The play that provided the humiliating punctuation mark to an embarrassing loss came at the Steelers fast — faster than any play in the NFL this season.
During his 90-yard touchdown run late in last week’s Jacksonville win at Heinz Field, Leonard Fournette reached a top speed of 22.05 mph, per the league’s Next Gen Stats.
That’s the fastest a ballcarrier has been measured at any point in 2017. To put 22.05 mph into perspective, if Fournette maintained that top speed over a full 40-yard stretch, he would be running it in 3.71 seconds.
4. NO WANDERLUST
Blessed by general geographic location as well as being centrally located in a division in with four teams of close proximity, the Steelers always have one of the NFL’s lightest travel schedules. In 2017, they have by far the fewest estimated round-trip travel miles of any team in the league at 6,694.
Sunday’s game at Kansas City represents the second-farthest the Steelers will travel this season; 1,538 round-trip miles (according to webflyer.com) are roughly 23 percent of what they will spend in the air over all eight of their road trips.
To put the Steelers’ season-long 6,694 travel miles into perspective, the Seattle Seahawks (5,020 miles to Tampa) have a single trip approaching what the Steelers will travel all season.
Then there’s the eight teams that play in London this season — next week, for example, the Los Angeles Rams take a 10,880-mile round-trip journey there to play Arizona.