Put yourself in Ryan Shazier’s shoes for a second.
Up until that fateful Monday night game in Cincinnati in 2017, you were a first round draft pick with a career trajectory which was certainly pointing up. Your dynamic athleticism was almost second-to-none at the inside linebacker position.
Then, just like that, it all changed.
You go from watching tape and preparing for next week’s opponent to wondering if you will ever be able to walk again. Ever be able to run and play with your kids in the future.
Throughout Shazier’s amazing recovery, he has watched the Steelers try, but fail, to replace him in the main hub of the defense. Sean Spence? Nope. Jon Bostic? Think again. Then in the 2019 NFL Draft the team traded up 10 spots to select Devin Bush out of Michigan. An aggressive move, one which certainly had ramifications for Shazier’s goal to return.
Whether Shazier ever returns to the field isn’t the talking point here, but, again, put yourself in Shazier’s shoes for a second. Just like that you see the team who drafted you as ‘the answer’ draft someone else to be their new ‘answer’.
Would you blame Shazier for being a bit jaded? Would you blame him for potentially holding a slight grudge towards Bush? The answer to both of these is ‘no’, but it isn’t what Shazier did. Shazier started mentoring Bush, to the point where Bush calls Shazier “like a big brother”.
“We stay in communication on a daily basis,” Bush said during an appearance on WSVN. “That’s like my big brother, honestly. He’s just showing me the ropes, the ins and outs of the NFL and how to be a man.”
Check out the full interview below:
Shazier’s actions, which would have gone completely unnoticed had Bush not announced it during this interview, points directly to his high character. Not like anyone needed anymore evidence of Shazier’s tremendous character, but this certainly speaks volumes.
The other day I was talking with a neighbor of mine who is a Baltimore Ravens fan. He doesn’t pay that close attention to the NFL much anymore, but he always tells me how he felt he should have been a Steelers fan. He talks about the loyalty they have to the players, the family atmosphere and how they are still a hard-nosed team who does things the right way.
To me, this story speaks exactly to all of those facets of the organization. While there have been some bumps in the road, the Steelers are a team who usually puts character near the top of their player characteristics.
In summary, kudos to Shazier for being a man and welcoming the next generation of ILB into the fold, and kudos to the Steelers for not just keeping Shazier around, but for fostering an environment where this would be able to take place.
This is the epitome of a black-and-gold feel good story.