5 keys to the Steelers’ playoff future

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Sep 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) celebrates after recovering a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

4. Ryan Shazier must stay healthy

Ryan Shazier’s importance to the Steeler defense was never more evident than it was during the team’s 39-30 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.

After leaving the game in the first half due to a concussion, the Steelers proceeded to give up their highest point total of the season. The defense gave up 100 yards on the ground and allowed quarterback Russell Wilson to thrown five touchdown passes.

Shazier has missed four games this season, but he has made his impact known when he has been on the field. He averages nearly seven tackles per game and he’s forced two fumbles on the season. The Ohio State product has established himself as a leader on this defense. If he can stay healthy, he could be able to get this defensive unit back on track.

There aren’t many linebackers built like the Ohio State product. He has a unique combination of size, speed and length that is uncommon in today’s NFL. Sean Spence has filled in admirably in relief, but he lacks the overall ability to make necessary plays in the passing game which has hurt Pittsburgh this season.

This team needs Shazier in the lineup. He could be one of the NFL’s best young linebackers if he was on the field more often. As the team’s first round pick in 2014, he has shown nothing but promise while on the field. However, injuries have caused him to play just 17 games in his first two seasons.

It’s hard to see the Steelers making a run into the playoffs without the services of their starting inside linebacker.

Next: 3. Maintain the success on the ground