Shazier is making incredible progress after a terrifying spinal injury he suffered in Week 13 against the Bengals.
The Steelers’ season may be over, but one player is still fighting in an extremely important battle. Middle linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury in December and has been making slow progress in a quest that stretches far beyond the gridiron.
On Feb. 20, Ryan Shazier spoke for the first time about his injury when he was a guest on his teammate Roosevelt Nix’s podcast. Shazier said that he’s making progress every day and that he plans to play football again one day.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter shared on Super Bowl Sunday that Shazier hasn’t just regained feeling in his legs, but he’s also regained movement and is “engaging in a regular walking routine.” But Michele Tafoya reported that , which .
Days later, Shazier attended a Penguins game and stood up, with some help, while fans gave him a standing ovation:
A well-deserved STANDING ovation for this guy.
Welcome to the game, !
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins)
On Feb. 1, Shazier posted the most encouraging sign of his recovery to that date with a picture that appeared to show him standing — albeit with support from teammate Ben Roethlisberger.
I’ve had a lot of 1st downs at UPMC, but you know being the defensive guy I am, my mind is on 3 and out. With that being said, I want everyone to know that I’m moving on to the next step of the process. Today’s a big day for me as I’m officially being released from the hospital. I want to take a moment to thank the people who have helped me the past two months. First and foremost, I want to thank God because at the end of the day I don’t think I’d be making progress without His vision and hands protecting me and my family. I will continue to trust in Him and thank Him, because it all starts with Him. To my family: you’ve been my rock. Words can’t express how thankful I am for you Michelle, RJ, Mom, Dad, and VJ for always being there for me. You’re my everything. To Jerome: my trainer and best friend. Thank you for being there from day 1 and every day after continuing to push me to be better every day. I’d like to thank Dr. Okonkwo, Dr. Harrington, Dr. Maroon, and Dr. Schroeder for their amazing work on my procedure and continuous care. I can’t appropriately express how grateful I am for how quickly you’ve helped me bounce back. I want to thank the medical staff at UPMC for their amazing care, support and therapy they have given me- especially Joe, Nikki, Karolina and Dani. I know the staff will continue to help me find a way to keep on pushing as we continue therapy. The support from my teammates has been truly amazing. From former players to current players and their families- they have helped me and my family day to day with visits and gifts. We can’t thank you enough. I want to thank Mr. Rooney, Coach T, Mr. Colbert, and the entire Steelers organization for the unwavering support they’ve given me. I knew they were an amazing organization, but more than ever they’re family to me. Lastly, I want to thank Jimmy, Candice, and the CAA Sports staff for being here when I need them most. I don’t know if I’d be where I’m at or making the progress I’m making without you guys. I want everyone to know that all of the support and prayers are absolutely being answered. I will continue to work hard and push and find a way back. #Shalieve #Steelers #prayfor50
A post shared by Ryan Shazier (@shazier) on Feb 1, 2018 at 10:57am PST
That same day, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center released a statement saying that and will transition into an outpatient program to continue his recovery.
Shazier told the world he’d regained feeling in his legs after suffering a devastating spinal injury in the Steelers’ Week 13 win over the Bengals.
He visited his teammates at practice for the first time before the Steelers’ divisional matchup against the Jaguars, bringing an emotional lift as the team prepared for the postseason.
This was the first photo that confirmed Shazier was in a wheelchair. His family and the team have kept details about Shazier’s condition close to the vest to protect his privacy as he recovers.
I want to thank the Lord for the first downs that he has been allowing me to achieve. The touchdown is going to come in his timing, but today was a first down. I was finally able to make it to practice with my teammates. It’s great to be back for practices and meetings. Just to be able to feel a part of it means the world. So I’m working harder than I ever have to get back. Ive been making strides over the past month and continue to make progress. Taking it day-by-day, but I’m far from done. The Lord has not finished his work yet. I want to say thank you to the fans and Steelers Nation for the prayers. If it wasn’t for my family, friends and your prayers I wouldn’t be were I am now. They have lifted me and my family through this journey and I ask for you to continue praying for me, as I continue to work daily on improving my health. #Shalieve#Steelers#prayfor50
A post shared by Ryan Shazier (@shazier) on Jan 10, 2018 at 11:13am PST
Cameron Heyward told NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala that Shazier said he has good days and bad days. But the days he’s able to spend around his teammates are always good days.
His father, Vernon Shazier, said his condition is improving.
“He’s much better,” the elder Shazier said in early January, via Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV, “but we’ve agreed to keep his progress private until he’s ready to share where he’s at.”
What does Ryan Shazier mean to the Steelers? He’s been the Steelers’ biggest defensive playmaker since they took him him in the first round of the 2014 draft.
He had 89 total tackles this season, despite missing the last four games. That ties him with Vince Williams, who started all 16 games, for second on the team. Shazier finished the season with two forced fumbles and three picks, both of which tie him for the No. 1 spot on the team in each category.
Shazier means so much more to the Steelers than that, as was seen in the way his teammates reacted immediately after his injury. They had a hard time holding back tears in the immediate aftermath and for the rest of the game.
“I don’t think Vince (Williams) stopped crying until after halftime, and that’s one of the most gangster dudes on the team,” safety Mike Mitchell said, . “People had to grab him by the face mask and be like, ‘Yo, you’re the middle linebacker now. You can’t be sniffling.’”
The Steelers went on to win that game, beating the Bengals 23-20. They won four of their last five, locking up the second seed in the AFC. He wasn’t on the field, but they didn’t do it without Shazier.
“When you see him, you know how much he loves football and wants to be out there for us,” linebacker Anthony Chickillo said, through the team’s website. “You just want to go hard for him. You just want to win for him.”
He hasn’t stopped being there for his teammates. Shazier celebrated the Steelers’ Week 14 win over the Ravens with his teammates from his hospital bed via FaceTime. And he even made it to the Steelers’ Week 15 loss to the Patriots at Heinz Field, just two weeks after his injury. Shazier also attended the Steelers’ Week 17 win over the Browns in Pittsburgh.
Shazier was also on hand to cheer on the Steelers at the divisional matchup against the Jaguars.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers)
He spoke to his teammates in the locker room to encourage them, according to CBS’ broadcast.
After the season was over, Steelers own Art Rooney II said that there will be a role for Shazier in 2018 in some capacity:
Art Rooney on Ryan Shazier’s future: “I expect Ryan is going to be here one way or the other and have a roll on the team one way or other in 2018”
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette)
How was Shazier injured? Shazier went to the ground clutching his back after tackling Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone on Cincinnati’s first possession of the game. It looked like a normal, everyday kind of tackle until Shazier didn’t get up.
Shazier was immobilized on a backboard, carted off the field, and taken directly to a Cincinnati hospital. He was transported back to Pittsburgh and underwent spinal stabilization surgery. The Steelers placed him on injured reserve.
What’s Shazier’s prognosis? Shazier started rehab days after undergoing surgery, and he’s been healthy enough to make it to the team’s practice facility for meetings. He’s still very much a part of the Steelers, even if he never takes the field again.
But that’s not out of the question. Shazier told Nix his goal is to get back on the field and to become a Hall of Famer. Shazier’s father said he believes his son will play again.
“Yes, I do,” Vernon Shazier said. “I Shalieve.” Shazier and his family consistently use that play on Shazier’s last name and the word “believe“ when talking about his injury.
The injury was terrifying, and it’s difficult to even think about whether Shazier can or will play football in the future. What matters now is just Shazier’s continued recovery.
“I’m not worried about him playing for us again, I’m more worried about him,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Y’all have been updated as much as we have. The thing that we’re hopeful for and prayerful for is that he comes back and he’ll be OK. The football stuff is secondary. His life is a lot more important to me than football.”
Shazier’s teammates came up short of their goal to win Super Bowl LII, falling to the Jaguars in the Divisional Round.
Shazier wasn’t on the field for the postseason. But he was still a huge part of what his teammates accomplished this season.
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