The Steelers don’t rule out that Ryan Shazier is playing soccer again; GM says film shows “significant improvement”

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Ryan Shazier hasn't played in an NFL game since he suffered a serious spine injury 12 weeks after the start of the 2017 season. Since he underwent spinal stabilization surgery Shortly after sustaining the injury, the Pro Bowl linebacker made significant progress in his recovery. Shazier, the team’s former first round pick, has spent the past two seasons as an unofficial coach for the Steelers while serving as a mentor for the linebacker.

Regarding Shazier’s future, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters on Thursday that the team will continue to support Shazier’s hopes for a successful career. Shazier, who was on the Steelers / PUP reserve list for the 2019 season, is expected to become a free agent when the new league year begins March 18. It looks like the Steelers will find a way to keep it on their list, in some form or fashion, in 2020.

"Ryan is still in rehabilitation," said Colbert, via Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. "We looked at pictures of his rehabilitation - where he is now compared to where he was last year - and it was a significant improvement. We're never going to take that away from Ryan. We always told her that we ‘I'm never going to cap it. When Ryan is healthy enough to play this game, which is his goal, we will make that decision and he will do so at that time. "

The Steelers may choose to sign Shazier on a one-year contract, $ 820,000, the minimum one-year salary for a player with six years of service. According to Spotrac, Shazier earned $ 18,751,253 during his time with the Steelers. After its first Pro Bowl selection in 2016, the Steelers chose Shazier's $ 8.718 million fifth-year option before the 2017 season. In May 2018 (following his injury), the Steelers converted 8, $ 26 million of that money as a signing bonus for salary cap purposes before executing his contract in 2019. The Steelers also provided Shazier with his regular medical insurance.

Last month, Steelers president Art Rooney II said the Steelers will find a way to keep Shazier for the 2020 season.

"We just have to sit down with Ryan and see what the next step is," Rooney said, via Joe Rutter from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We haven't done it yet. "

Before his injury, Shazier became one of the top young linebackers in the NFL. Pittsburgh's first round pick in the 2014 draft, Shazier achieved Pro Bowl status in 2016 while helping the Steelers advance to the AFC Championship game. In 2017, he was in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year award before suffering his injury. Without Shazier, the Steelers, who were 9-2 at the time of his injury, sorely missed his presence, while Pittsburgh was crushed by Jacksonville in the AFC playoff division round.

After the injury, Shazier spent more than two months in hospital before starting outpatient therapy. He quickly showed significant signs of progress as he started walking alone before the Steelers made their way to Latrobe for next year's training camp. In addition to doing his rehabilitation sessions at home, Shazier would also do some of his work at the Steelers' facilities while helping to prepare for the Pittsburgh draft. He has also worked with linebackers for the Steelers for the past two seasons, including head-to-head work with Devin Bush, Pittsburgh's first round pick in last year's draft (10th overall). Bush recalled Shazier's memories, recording 109 tackles, four fumble recoveries (returning one for a score) and two interceptions. His game helped the Steelers' defense finish fifth in the league by scoring, third in pass defense, ninth in third downhill efficiency and sixth in red zone efficiency.

"He's just a big brother to me," Bush said of Shazier in an interview on 105.9 The X. "He's there whenever I need him. We text, we talk, we talk about life, we talk about football. It's like, ‘Whenever you need something, whenever you need to talk about anything, I'm ready to help you and I'm there. ' "

In addition to his rehab and time with the Steelers, Shazier also married his longtime girlfriend in 2019 while welcoming the birth of her second son in January. He also returned to school last fall to complete his undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh. Shazier, who soaked his toes in several local businesses following his injury, said last fall that he would eventually seek a master's degree in business.

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