For Ryan Shazier, things haven’t necessarily gone as planned since he left Ohio State University and was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After some early career struggles, Shazier looked to be on top of his game before the Monday Night game in Cincinnati vs. the Bengals when he lay on the Paul Brown Stadium turf unable to move his lower extremities.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the dynamic play maker was facing a slew of questions. The most important being, “Will I ever be able to play this game again?” This wasn’t a knee injury, or injuring a shoulder, but a much dire situation that impacted not only his career, but his life.
Shazier has laid low since the injury in 2017, working hard and continuing to promise his return to the gridiron at some point. Fans often show signs of disgust when Shazier talks about playing the game he loves again, but it hasn’t deterred Shazier from having a goal in sight, and a proverbial light and the end of the tunnel.
During the lead up to Super Bowl 53, Shazier spoke to the media, and Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley, about his current status, his plans and what lies ahead with No. 50 in Pittsburgh. When reading through the many quotes from Shazier, the one which stood out the most was how Shazier struggles to just be around the team. Not that he doesn’t love the game, his teammates or the organization, but mainly how he has been stripped of what made his truly great as a player.
“It’s very difficult for me just being there,” said Shazier. “It motivates me and pushes me more and more every day. I am not going to lie. Before every game I hear the National Anthem, knowing when I hear the National Anthem it’s time to play. It eats me inside. Sometimes I might start crying when the National Anthem is on. It’s tough sometimes.
“I know I am still motivating those guys because they see me pushing every single day. It pushes them too. Sometimes it hurts because I might see our defense went on a slump and we didn’t have any turnovers and I knew I could have gone out there and made something happen or made a play. At the end of the day I just have to give them the knowledge I have and try to help them every single day I can.”
The struggles are multifaceted with Shazier, but what fans really want to know is if he still views playing again as the ultimate goal.
“I definitely want to play. I try to tell people at the end of the day, just because I got hurt, doesn’t mean I lost the love of the game of football,” said Shazier. “I love football so much. I just care about the game. I really feel like the game has taken me places I never expected to go. I am putting my everything into it. I feel like I was the best linebacker in the league. I don’t want to leave that as my legacy. I feel like I have so much to show.”
His progress is undeniable, and Shazier feels he still has so much to show/prove in the coming days, weeks and years.
“My doctor said I am further than they expected me to be,” said Shazier. “The rehab, the recovery and the pace I have been doing, there are no doors closed. He said you have to keep working, keep grinding. How hard you work is a possibility if you can make it back or not.”
Shazier feels confident a contract will be negotiated with the Steelers, keeping him in Pittsburgh one way or another. Either as a player, or coach, but mainly so he can continue his rehabilitation with the doctors and trainers who have helped him get to this point. In the meantime, the Steelers are still trying to fill the gigantic void left by Shazier’s absence, and there is never any doubt how the Steelers faithful are pulling for Shazier to have a full recovery from his horrible injury.