Sore shoulder sidelines Steelers’ Shazier
The defensive void left by injured inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is so considerable that two players will fill it for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Friday that Shazier’s shoulder injury that knocked him from the game during the fourth quarter last week will keep him out of Pittsburgh’s road game at St. Louis (1-1) on Sunday.
“We have some capable guys, and it’s the next-man-up attitude here,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “We’ve got Vince Williams, and we’ve got [Sean] Spence. More than capable guys.”
Shazier, the Steelers’ first-round pick last year, had a 15-tackle performance last week against the 49ers. Shazier had 11 solo tackles, one dazzling 17-yard sack, three stops behind the line, a quarterback hurry, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Shazier’s 22 tackles through two games are fourth best in the NFL.
He left last Sunday’s win late with a stinger, something he described as a “linebacker injury.” It prevented him from practicing all week, forcing Shazier to miss the eighth game of his young career.
“The key to our defense is for everyone to do their job,” Spence said. “That’s just what Ryan did last week. He did his job and made the plays that came to him, and I feel as a defense if we continue to do that we all can have those kinds of games.”
Shazier was expected to be a full-time starter as a rookie, but foot and knee injuries limited him to half a season. Williams and Spence benefited from his absence by getting key reps. Williams primarily played in passing situations, while Spence was the run stopper next to veteran Timmons.
Spence started nine games and played in all 16 last season after missing two years with a severe knee injury sustained during the 2012 preseason, his rookie year. Williams, a third-year player, has 13 career NFL starts, including 11 as a rookie in 2013. Despite their experience, Spence and Williams will be hard-pressed to replace Shazier’s production.
The Steelers also will be without second-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers (knee), while CB Cortez Allen (knee) is questionable against the Rams. CB William Gay (not injury related), DE Cam Heyward (elbow) and WR Markus Wheaton (chest) are probable.