Steelers' Ryan Shazier: 'My dream is to come back and play football again'

A little more than six months after suffering a spinal injury, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier met with media on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility. Paralyzed for weeks, Shazier walked into the media room using a cane, but hung it on the podium and stood tall as he talked for about 30 minutes.

‘I feel like I’m constantly getting better’

Shazier began with a lengthy list of thank yous, including his fiancee Michelle Rodriguez, parents and son; the many doctors who have cared for him, Steelers fans and even the thousands of fans who were at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati last December 4 and witnessed his brutal injury.

Shazier was taken by ambulance to a hospital in the city, and was treated there before being transported to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he underwent spinal stabilization surgery roughly 48 hours after the initial injury.

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Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffers brutal hit
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Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffers brutal hit
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) (bottom) injures his back during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals on December 4th, 2017 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Dec 4, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone (80) is brought down by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams (98) during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts as he is carted off the field after a injury against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts as he is carted off the field after a injury against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts as he is carted off the field after a injury against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Dec 4, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) is carted off the field during a stop in play against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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The road since then has been long, and Shazier isn’t near its end. But he’s given us glimpses along the way, from his appearance at Heinz Field a couple of weeks after his injury when the Steelers player the New England Patriots, to standing to recognize the crowd at a Pittsburgh Penguins game in February to bringing many to tears during the first round of the NFL Draft in April, walking onto the stage with Rodriguez to announce the Steelers’ first-round pick.

“My rehab has been going so great; honestly, every day I feel like I’m getting better,” Shazier said.

‘My dream is to come back and play football again’

Despite suffering such a serious injury, Shazier has maintained that he wants to play for Pittsburgh again, which he reiterated on Wednesday.

“My dream is to come back and play football again,” he said. “I’ve been working my tail off every single day, so I have that in the back of my mind every single time I go to rehab, and I just try to stay positive every single day.”

Shazier doesn’t have a timetable for when he might be able to return, and said doctors have told him to take things day-by-day; he will not play this season, as Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert already announced the 2014 first-round pick won’t play in 2018.

Asked why he wants to return to the game, Shazier said, “I’ve played this game since I was 4-years-old; I’ve loved this game since I was 4-years-old, and just because I got hurt doesn’t mean I stop loving the game of football.”

Shazier’s next goal is to be able to walk on his own, so clearly, sprinting the width of a field to tackle a ballcarrier is a ways away.

Role unclear

The Steelers converted Shazier’s 2018 salary to a bonus, so he’s already gotten his money despite not playing, and the team has made it clear that Shazier will still have some kind of role.

What that will be, however, isn’t clear.

“Right now, I’m taking it one day at a time, and the coaching staff and Mr. Rooney, they’ll let me know as the season comes along, but as of right now we haven’t decided,” he said.

Pressed whether he’ll be on the scouting side or coaching side, Shazier replied, “Honestly, I’m just really taking it all in. It’s kind of cool learning the ins and outs of the scouting department, the coaching department, to learn how they come up with plays or how the scouting goes when it comes to making the team. It’s cool to me to learn both of them.”

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