Tag Archives: Ryan Shazier

ICYMI: Patriots Show Their Support For Ryan Shazier

Robert Alvarez
April 10, 2019 at 10:45 am ET

Over the weekend, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier shared incredible video of himself doing box jumps 16 months after a tackle during a game left him unable to walk.

On December 5th 2017, Shazier suffered a spinal injury that ended his professional football career.

On social media, a few Patriots shared words of encouragement to Shazier during his inspirational progress back to being able to walk.

Patriots – Steelers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 16, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots go back out on the road for their fifth game in the last six and their last in the 2017 regular season as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is still a hat and t-shirt game for the Patriots. With a win or a tie, the Patriots clinch the AFC East once again for the ninth straight time and the 17th since Robert Kraft took over the team in 1994.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (10-3) are coming off an ugly 27-20 loss to Miami on Monday night. The offense struggled all night long and the defense couldn’t stop Kenyan Drake either running or receiving. They’ll be looking for a bounce-back game.

The Steelers (11-2) had another late 4th quarter comeback and pulled off a dramatic 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens where Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards and Antonio Brown had 213 yards receiving.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Steelers are meeting for the 31st time and the Steeler and Patriots are tied with 15 wins each. However, during the Bill Belichick era the Patriots are 10-3 against the Steelers and have won the last four meetings including the 2016 AFC Championship Game  36-17 in Gillette Stadium last January.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Steelers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots running game was steadily gaining momentum with the duo of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead giving them big-play potential. The gained nearly 200 yards two weeks in a row against Miami and Buffalo before hitting the wall last week against the Dolphins and abandoning the running game too soon.

The Steelers run defense has been pretty good all season but in a short week after losing LB Ryan Shazier to a potential career-threatening injury, they were gashed by the Ravens for 152 yards while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Now they’ve had time to work out the kinks of replacing Shazier and this will be a key area to watch. If Lewis and Burkhead regain their game this week, it will go a long way in negating the Steelers pass rush and make their job of slowing down Tom Brady and Co. much, much harder. The key from a New England perspective is getting the running game going early and opening up the middle of the field.

Patriots WRs vs Steelers Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is still tops in the NFL and this week they get Rob Gronkowski back from his one-game suspension. Chris Hogan returned from a shoulder injury last week but was ineffective last week. Ditto for Brandin Cooks. The versatility of the Patriots lies with the multiple running backs they can utilize in the passing game, Lewis, Burkhead and James White. And Danny Amendola does nothing but move the sticks every time he catches the ball.

Pittsburgh’s pass defense is the #4 unit in the league, while second in sacks with 41. They can get after the passer in a variety of ways with Cameron Heyward providing them with a career year with nine sacks, Vince Williams with seven and rookie T.J. Watt has six. The Steelers have only allowed an opposing QB to throw for more than 264 yards once (M.Stafford). The pressure on Brady will be the key for them… And will they change their defense from their zone to more of a man scheme?

We don’t have to repeat the stats Brady has against Pittsburgh, he’s had his way with them for 16 years. And with the Patriots offense, it is all about spreading the ball around. Gronkowski leads the team with 55 receptions, White and Cooks have 54 each while Amendola has 52. Hogan who missed four games has 34. While everything goes thru Gronkowski, for Brady it is about sharing the wealth. If he has time to throw.

Next up the Pittsburgh offense:

Steelers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

The Steelers running game is based on the incredibly patient Le’Veon Bell who has the vision and physical tools to wait for the slightest crack in the defense and then burst thru the hole. Bell not only leads the league in rushing with 1105 yards rushing, but has 75 catches for 579 yards. He carries a tremendous workload on his shoulders and behind a very good offensive line is a guy who can easily take over a game by himself.

The Patriots run defense has suffered all season. Injuries have piled up both on the edge and inside, the latest with Alan Branch who will miss Sunday’s game is a big blow for a Patriots unit that has struggled to stand up inside.

This matchup is a clear, big advantage for the Steelers. Bell can control the game either on the ground or in the passing game and the Patriots will be hard pressed to keep him in check this week. If he consistently can grind out big gains on 1st and 2nd down, it will make the potent Pittsburgh air attack more deadly.

Steelers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger has a plethora of weapons, arguably the best he’s ever had in a Steelers uniform to use in the passing game. Antonio Brown easily leads the NFL with 99 catches for 1509 yards and nine touchdowns. Brown is another guy that can take over a game and he had 213 yards against the Ravens last Sunday night. Roethlisberger uses Bell out of the backfield, Jesse James at the tight end position as well as JuJu Smith Schuster, Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers. They’re heating up at just the right time of the year.

The Patriots pass defense has undergone a transformation in the past seven games. Since a horrible start in September, the New England pass defense in the last seven is allowing an average of 193.1 yards per game. The secondary with Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones at corner have really picked up their game. And they’ll need to against this Pittsburgh talented group of receivers.

Obviously, the keys from a New England perspective is how well they can slow down Brown and Bell, they won’t stop them. Even in games where the Patriots have won comfortably, have got their yards. The key is getting a few stops in the red zone. They’ll have to manufacture some pass rush pressure on Roethlisberger who has been sacked just 19 times this season. And force him into getting rid of the ball before he can find one of his receivers downfield.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The kickers in this one, the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski, and the Steelers’ Chris Boswell are both having outstanding seasons. Both have been money on big kicks from long range. What has made Gostkowski so special this season are his kickoffs, which are pinning teams deep.  The Patriots’ outstanding coverage units are smothering the opposition. They’ve also gotten some big plays from Special Teams. The Steelers units rank lower to the bottom of the league in punt and kick returns. The Patriots could use a big play on Special Teams this week on the road.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be another Patriots-Steelers instant classic. With the top seed of the AFC on the line, whoever wins this one will have the inside track for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Pittsburgh has been openly clamoring for this one since March and have proclaimed themselves to be “a team of destiny.” Coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t shied away from it either saying the Steelers should win the Super Bowl.

The contrast is, of course, Bill Belichick, while the Patriots know what is at stake, he never lets the team’s focus get too far ahead. To them, this week is a big game, obviously but they say that about every week.

Everything is breaking right for the Steelers, they’re hitting their peak at just the right time and get a Patriots team that is banged up with 13 players on IR and 10 more questionable to play on Sunday. Plus they get it at home where they have a better home record in the last decade-plus than anyone…except New England.

A lot has been made about the changes to the Steelers defense, but until they show those changes on the field, Brady’s dominance over them for the past 16 years is the driving factor here. It will go down to the wire, but the Patriots go home with a very close win. Patriots 30-28

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Steelers

Steve Balestrieri
October 19, 2016 at 9:29 am ET

Steelers’ Offense Explosive With or Without Roethlisberger

The Patriots head back out on the road for a big game against the Pittsburgh Steelers for their third straight game against AFC North opponents. Kickoff is slated for 1:05 p.m.

The Patriots (5-1), beat the Cincinnati Bengals 35-17 in a triumphant home return for QB Tom Brady. After a slow start in the first half, Brady lit up the Bengals for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Dont’a Hightower led the defense with 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a big safety that turned the game’s momentum.

The Steelers (4-2) laid an egg, losing 30-15 to Miami on the road. Their normally stout run defense was gashed by Jay Ajayi who ran for over 200 yards. Worse was they lost Ben Roethlisberger for at least this week when he tore his meniscus. His replacement will be Landry Jones this week.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Steelers:

Under Tomlin, They Always Have a Mulligan: The Steelers are always one of the more talented teams in the league. But it seems every year Pittsburgh has a game or two against a very inferior opponent where they don’t show up and lose in ugly fashion. Last week in Miami was a prime example. Prior to the game, the media in South Florida was talking about another house-cleaning. Then they blow out a team, many picked to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

It eventually comes down to coaching. And Tomlin, considered one of the better coaches in the game, has to take the heat for his team not showing up for these very winnable contests.

While the injury to Roethlisberger certainly had something to do with the loss, when was the last time an opponent ran for 220 yards on the Steelers defense? This was a team that wasn’t prepared and lost an opportunity to gain additional ground on the rest of the division in the standings.

Roethlisberger’s Absence Dims the Matchup: This was one of the games that we circled when the schedule came out as not only a potential shootout but one to maybe chock up in the loss column.  Pittsburgh is always tough at home and Roethlisberger leads one of the more prolific offenses in the game. With the explosive Antonio Brown, the speedster Sammie Coates as well as a superb duo of running backs in Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, the Pittsburgh offense is fun to watch.

Roethlisberger was also leading one of the best units on third down as well as in the red zone, two areas that the Patriots defense has struggled with during the first six games of 2016. This one had all the makings of an old-fashioned AFL shootout between Roethlisberger and Tom Brady and his absence takes some of the shine off that.

Landry Jones, the 3rd year QB from Oklahoma is a far cry from Roethlisberger in the Steelers offense. He started two games in 2015 with Big Ben out and completed 32 of 56 passes, just 57 percent for 513 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 76.0. They’ll have to change the offense somewhat for Jones but getting the ball to Brown and throwing down the field will still be a big part of the offense. Does this mean that this is an automatic Pittsburgh loss? Hardly. They have plenty of weapons and Jones like anyone else can heat up, but the Brady – Roethlisberger duel was one we really looked forward to.

Bell and Williams are the Great Equalizers: Pittsburgh’s running game this week has the ability to make this one interesting regardless of who is at QB. Last season, with La’Veon Bell out for the opener DeAngelo Williams had a very strong game in Foxboro that kept the Steelers offense balanced.

Bell has only played in three games this season but sports a gaudy 5.5 yards per carry average on 48 carries for 263 yards. For a big man (6’2, 230 lbs), he runs exceptionally well and is a huge factor in the passing game as well with 20 catches, good for second on the team for 177 yards.

Much like New England did for the first four games during Brady’s suspension, look for the Steelers to lean on their running backs to weather the storm while Roethlisberger heals up. Expect to see plenty of Bell, in the running game, and split wide outside to create mismatches against the Patriots linebackers in the passing game.

A key for the Steelers this week will be to start fast and use their backs and running game to slow the pace down and keep Brady and the offense on the sideline.

Pass Defense is Not Good: There is a good reason to want their offense to keep Brady on the sidelines. The Pittsburgh defense, notably their pass defense isn’t very good. Of course it doesn’t help that the team was missing two of their best defensive players in Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier, no one will feel sorry for them. But it is what it is. Heyward will miss this week’s game, although they hope to get Shazier back.

The Steelers have had trouble getting after the QB so far in 2016 and their secondary hasn’t been able to hold up. Opponents are averaging 293.7 yards per game, third worst in the NFL and the secondary has not made a single interception. All three picks the defense owns comes from the linebackers.

Consider this, in the Steelers’ four wins, they’ve generated, three fumble recoveries, and eight sacks. In their two losses, they have zero fumble recoveries, zero interceptions and zero sacks. Conventional wisdom suggests if Brady and the Patriots take care of the football this week, they should be successful.

Lack of Balance Equals Lack of Success: While the sample size is small with only six games played thus far in 2016, one thing that has stood out is the Pittsburgh offense has been much more effective when they’ve remained balanced.

In their four wins, the Steelers offense has been nearly unstoppable averaging about 34 points a game. In their two losses, again a small sample size, they scored about nine points per game. Why is there such a discrepancy? The balance between the running and passing games.

In the Steelers four wins, they were humming along at about a 50-55 percent mix of pass and the run. The running of Bell kept defenses honest and then they were able to hit the passes down the field. The only exception was the Jets game, and with their stiff run defense Roethlisberger threw on 66 percent of his plays.

In the two losses, when they lost that balance, the offense struggled to move the ball and score. Against the Dolphins the ratio of pass to run rose to 68 percent, and granted Big Ben was hurt but in the Week 3 loss to Philadelphia, that ratio was 81 percent.

It is a trend, they’ll look to stop this week, look for Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley to try to get back into that 50-55 percentile and keep their balance.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Players to Watch, Patriots – Steelers

Steve Balestrieri
September 10, 2015 at 6:47 am ET

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers kick off the 2015 NFL season on Thursday night in Foxboro; the game will be broadcast on NBC with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michelle Tafoya on the call.

Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. and advanced weather forecasts call for periods of heavy rain with some lightning possible.

The Patriots will drop the Super Bowl banner prior to the game and coupled with the fact that Tom Brady’s suspension was vacated in Deflategate, the atmosphere in Gillette is expected to be electric.

Here are three players from each team to watch in Thursday night’s game:

Patriots –
Tom Brady: With all that he’s gone thru both in the lead-up to and following the Super Bowl during the off-season with Deflategate, the toll it had to take on him was enormous. Now he can focus on just football and attempting to defend the Super Bowl title.

His friends and those close to him say that he’s ticked off and ready to prove naysayers wrong once again. One constant through the years has been that a ticked off Brady is a motivated and sharp one. This will be an interesting game to watch unfold.

Rob Gronkowski: The big man is entering this season as healthy as he’s been in the last several. Pittsburgh has already gone on record as stating that he will be their focus in trying to stop the Patriots offense.

Gronkowski is by far the best overall tight end in the game today, and he’ll be putting pressure on the Steelers secondary, who will attempt to chip him and play physical at the line to try to slow him down and throw off the timing between him and Brady.

Gronk could be in line for a big game on the national stage on Thursday night.

Malcolm Butler: Butler has had quite the year; he went from an UDFA from West Alabama to making the team out of training camp to being a Super Bowl hero. Now with Darrelle Revis gone, he’s moving into Revis’ spot at left cornerback for the Patriots.

While no one can replace a Revis, the comparisons are going to be made all season and Butler will be firmly under the microscope. Every pass completion will be dissected closely and he’ll be scrutinized like no other 2nd year player as he attempts now to become an every down solid cornerback.

He had a fantastic summer but now the games are for real and he’s facing one of the biggest threats in the league in Antonio Brown. This is his first test and it is a major one. But after watching him for the past 14 months, our bets are on him being just fine.

Steelers –
Antonio Brown:
Brown had a phenomenal year in 2014, catching 129 passes for 1698 yards and 13 touchdowns from QB Ben Roethlisberger. The duo was one of the top combinations in the NFL and Brown has become Big Ben’s go-to guy.

Brown can do it all; from bubble screens and shallow crossing routes underneath to intermediate plays along the sideline and across the intermediate area in the middle of the field to the deep ball. He seems to always time his leap on the deep jump ball perfectly belying his height of 5’10, making him seem much taller.

The Patriots defensive philosophy is always to take away the opponent’s best offensive weapon and make them beat you with complimentary players. With Brown that will be easier said than done. But expect the Patriots to give him plenty of attention on the field with Butler and some over the top help.

Ryan Shazier: The 2nd year linebacker from Ohio State may be tasked with covering Gronkowski at times for the Steelers defense. Shazier, 6’2, 229 is a slightly undersized but very athletic linebacker in the remade Steelers defense.

Shazier should be a big focal point in the Steelers defense against New England this week, as he’ll be asked to use his athleticism to cover a lot of ground underneath where the Patriots like to attack.

“He’s a huge guy with a great catch radius and he knows how to make plays,” said Shazier to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on Gronkowski. “Brady and he have been playing together for years and they have amazing chemistry. He’s just a really good player with a great quarterback.”

Cody Wallace: The Steelers back-up center will have some big shoes to fill in replacing starting center Maurkice Pouncey who had ankle surgery and will be out until Week 9. Wallace bounced around a bit before finding a home in Pittsburgh and has had starts at center and guard since arriving in 2013.

He’ll have to not only try to replace the physical Pouncey ‘s production but in calling out the signals for the offensive line and maintaining the communication in the blocking schemes. Look for Bill Belichick to test him with some delayed A-gap blitzes from both Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins this week.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com and we’ll have post-game analysis of the opener as well as transcripts from Bill Belichick’s press conference immediately after the game.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Steelers

Steve Balestrieri
September 7, 2015 at 8:44 am ET

The Patriots 2015 season kicks off with a Thursday night prime time match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The will be televised nationally by NBC with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the call and Michelle Tafoya handling sideline duties. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m.

The Steelers (11-5) have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. QB Ben Roethlisberger set career records for attempts (608), completions (408), yards with 4952 and tied his touchdown record with 32 in 2014. His 106-52 record as a starting quarterback is fourth best among active QBs putting in the company of Brady, Manning and Rodgers. His start on Thursday will make him the all-time leader in QB starts in franchise history.

The defense is going through a transition period with the departures of long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, as well as long-time Steelers Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor. The onus now by new coordinator Keith Butler will be on fast, athletic players and having their defensive linemen tee off and come after the quarterback. It may take them time to gel as a unit with so many changes in both personnel and philosophy.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Steelers:

Bell, Brown and Ben Cornerstones of the Offense: The Steelers have arguably the best offensive trio of QB, WR and RB of any team in the NFL, led by RB Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

They mark a very impressive trio that vaulted the Steelers to the #2 offense in the NFL last season. Bell won’t play on Thursday, having to serve a three-game suspension for a DUI arrest and drug possession charges. Although he’ll be missed, former Panther DeAngelo Williams and Dri Archer still give them a formidable duo.

Brown’s 129 catches last season were the second most in NFL history for a single season. He’s Roethlisberger’s go-to guy and with Markus Wheaton and newcomer Sammie Coates, the Steelers have plenty of speed outside. The venerable Heath Miller returns for an 11th season, providing Roethlisberger with a reliable safety valve.

Allen Replaces Thomas At Safety: Pittsburgh announced that 12-year vet Will Allen will replace Shamarko Thomas at strong safety this week and play opposite free safety Mike Mitchell. Thomas, the 3rd year safety was originally drafted to replace Polamalu but has struggled this preseason.

He allowed a 31-yard scoring play against the Jaguars, as well as a 67-yard scoring play against the Bills and a 49-yard touchdown run versus Carolina where he missed a key tackle. He still may see the field in some sub-packages on Thursday.

Allen and Mitchell will be tasked with stopping the Patriots tight end tandem of Gronkowski and Chandler which will be one area of interest to watch in this week’s game.

Offensive Line, Once a Weakness, Now a Position of Strength: The Steelers offensive line for years took a lot of flak, some of it deservedly so for their play in protecting Roethlisberger. But part of the reason was that the big QB would hold the ball for incredibly long stretches trying to allow plays to develop. While many big plays developed, Roethlisberger also took a terrific beating.

Now with an improved offensive line, perhaps the best in his time in Pittsburgh and a passing game of OC Todd Haley that is keyed on his getting the ball out quicker, the offense has thrived.

Maurkice Pouncey anchors the line at center, although he’s hurt now and will miss the first eight weeks of the season. But Big Ben’s blindside is firmly protected by left tackle Kelvin Beachum and left guard Ramon Foster. Beachum is a good story, a 7th round pick who worked his way into a job and has been steadily improving. The right side is held down by T Marcus Gilbert and G David DeCastro.

This is a very solid unit and will provide a great test for the Patriots new improved front seven this week.

Change in Philosophy on Defense Still Working Out Kinks: The zone blitzes of the Steelers defense under Dick LeBeau was known as Blitzburg. But he’s gone, now in Tennessee and former LB coach Keith Butler has had to retool on the fly.

Instead of the two-gap responsibilities of the past, this Steelers defensive line will probably get after the quarterback in a more aggressive style.Cameron Heyward had a breakout season last year and Stephon Tuitt will have to fill big shoes with Keisel retiring. Steve McClendon leads a group of large bodies in the interior with Daniel McCullers, Clifton Geathers and Cam Thomas.

The linebacking group will have to pick up the slack in the pass rush department with James Harrison, Arthur Moats, Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and newcomer Bud Dupree.

The Steelers secondary was a problem, compounded by a weaker pass rush in 2014. They’re most probably going to use a Cover-2/Tampa-2  system to cut down on the big plays that they gave up last season. In the Tampa-2, the safeties and MLB drop and cover the deeper part of the field to take away the deep ball, but against New England with a shorter passing game, which is very effective against that, we may see some other looks. But the secondary of Cortez Allen, William Gay, Mitchell and Allen will be under the microscope early this season.

Feel Good Story, Army Ranger Villanueva Makes Roster: The Steeler have a big offensive lineman that made the roster this season. Huge 6’9, 335 pound Alejandro Villanueva made the initial 53-man roster out of training camp.

Villanueva is a West Point graduate and served in the 1st Ranger Bn at Hunter Army Airfield as well as in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division. He earned a Bronze Star for Valor while rushing to the aid of pinned down fellow soldiers under fire in Afghanistan.

He gained 90 pounds from his military weight of 245 due to a strict workout and his wife’s cooking. He’s a versatile player who can play multiple positions and has impressed the Pittsburgh coaches with his work ethic and professionalism, hallmarks of a military officer.

He was signed to the Steelers practice squad last August and earned his way onto the 53-man roster this season. Note to the Patriots coaches….there ARE other services other than the Navy…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.