The Pittsburgh Steelers have been through a lot this season, but nothing compares to what they’ve had to withstand watching their teammate and friend lay on the turf at Paul Brown Stadium unable to move his lower extremities.
Ryan Shazier is so much more than just another player—he’s a first-round draft pick, the physical captain of the defense and one of the best-liked players in the team’s locker room.
All the more reason why this injury, which has him just now starting to regain feeling in his legs, rocked the Steelers’ organization to its very core. In an incredible article by Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated, fans were given an inside look to what life was like before Shazier went down, as well as the impact afterwards.
The article is worth the time for everyone to read, but it’s worth noting some of the reactions players had when talking about Shazier, and how this season is for him.
Vince Williams describes the scene immediately after the hit, which he was a part of:
“The lick was loud. I heard it, like, BOW!” says Vince Williams, who came over Shazier’s back to finish the tackle that changed everything.
Williams turned around to celebrate—until he saw the panic in his friend’s face. “That f----- me up,” he says. “I’m watching the trainers pinch him. They’re not really telling him they’re pinching him, and they’re just pinching the s--- out of him.”
Joe Haden responds with what makes him tick heading into the postseason:
Even Haden—the newcomer who felt the unfamiliar sensation of playing for a winning team—knows how to frame this postseason. “It’s all about number 50,” he says.
The most touching insight to what Shazier continues to mean to this team came from Mike Mitchell. Mitchell, the most outspoken person in the Steelers’ locker room, spoke from the heart when talking about what Shazier means to him and to this team as they prepare for the postseason.
“Literally all we did was argue,” he says, “and I miss that. But then I think about my boy, and how he gave up his ability to move just for us to win a game. If he’s willing to make that sacrifice, I’m willing to do anything—anything—for us to win for him.
“We’re going to play [the Patriots] again,” Mitchell promises. “We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. . . . We’re gonna win.”
He lays out his dream scenario: The Steelers reach the Super Bowl, Shazier makes an appearance, and Pittsburgh triumphs. “It’s destiny,” he says. “I’m praying every day that he won’t be in a [wheelchair], that he’ll be on the sideline and run up and celebrate it with us. There’s gonna be hella people crying when it happens.”
To suggest the injury to Shazier doesn’t impact the Steelers is as far off base as suggesting the death of owner Dan Rooney meant nothing to the organization. The Steelers are a tight-knit group, and although Shazier’s injury and Rooney’s death were tragic, they have the potential to galvanize the team to achieve bigger and better things. Nothing short of a Super Bowl title will do, and you better believe every Steelers player will do whatever it takes to get the job done — for ‘50’.