Pittsburgh Steelers' thoughts with LB Ryan Shazier after scary injury

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 5, 2017 at 6:27 PM
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers were hopeful Tuesday after receiving news that linebacker Ryan Shazier had movement in his lower extremities after a scary back injury sent him to the hospital Monday night when the Steelers played the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

Shazier was taken to UC Medical Center after he could not get up after tackling Bengals receiver Josh Malone on the Steelers' first defensive series of the game. Two Steelers players said afterward that Shazier sustained a spinal cord concussion and that the news was encouraging.

Shazier stayed in the hospital overnight, but there has been some cautious optimism from team personnel and teammates in the hours after the injury occurred.

"Spiritually, he's in a great place," said head coach Mike Tomlin, who visited Shazier at the hospital early Tuesday before returning home on the team charter. "It was a tough evening. Ryan is a trooper. It was painful to get on that plane last night, but that's life."

Tomlin did not provide an update on Shazier's condition Tuesday afternoon, but he said the doctors caring for him could do that before the end of the day Tuesday.

Shazier's teammates said the experience was frightening.

"It was terrifying," linebacker Vince Williams said. "You never want to see one of your teammates and best friends go down like that."

There have been varying reports on the injury Shazier suffered. The NFL Network reported it was a spinal cord contusion, which is a more serious injury than a spinal cord concussion.

If Shazier has a spinal cord concussion, it will be the third such injury for a Steelers player in the past 15 years. Quarterback Tommy Maddox suffered one in 2002 and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had one in 2008.

"We know this is a tough sport," defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "It's not easy losing a guy like Ryan. He's a family man. He's got a little kid. I care a lot about Ryan. We just want him to be healthy. It's hard. We'll be praying for him. It was a whirlwind of emotion out there."

The Steelers now have a short week to prepare for the Ravens. They will probably have to sign a linebacker because Shazier's backup, Tyler Matakevich, left the game and did not return because of a shoulder injury.

Tomlin said Matakevich was being evaluated Tuesday morning and did not have an immediate update on him.

L.J. Fort finished the game for Matakevich. He was the only other inside linebacker dressed for the game.


--PASSING OFFENSE: B - The Steelers got off to a slow start in the passing game, but they got things rolling in the second half. Ben Roethlisberger was 24-for-40 for 290 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Antonio Brown late in the fourth quarter that tied the score. Brown finished with 101 receiving yards. Running back Le'Veon Bell was a big part of the passing game for the second week in a row. He caught a 35-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger in the third quarter that got the Steelers back in the game. Bell finished with five catches for 106 yards.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: B - The Steelers averaged 4.2 yards per carry against the Bengals with Bell leading the way with 76 yards on 18 carries. Bell became more effective as the game wore on and had 56 yards in the second half. James Conner pitched in with 12 yards on three carries. The Steelers haven't been dominant running the ball this season, but Bell continues to lead the NFL in rushing by more than 100 yards over his nearest competitor.

--PASS DEFENSE: C - Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton picked on Steelers corner Coty Sensabaugh in the first half, throwing twice to A.J. Green for touchdowns. Sensabaugh started his third consecutive game in place of Joe Haden, who has a fractured fibula. The Steelers replaced Sensabaugh at the beginning of the second half with rookie third-round pick Cameron Sutton, who also got picked on. However, the Bengals only scored three points in the second half. Green caught another long touchdown with Sutton in coverage, but it was called back on a holding penalty. All in all, the Steelers need Haden to return soon because opposing quarterbacks continue to take advantage of their backups.

--RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus - The Bengals, who are on pace for their worst rushing season in franchise history, ran for 130 yards, the most against the Steelers since the Jaguars rushed for more than 200 in a game in early October. The ability to run early set up their two passing touchdowns because they were in manageable downs and distances. But the Steelers clamped down on the Bengals running backs in the second half and limited them to 50 yards after halftime. That helped the Steelers limit Dalton and the Bengals passing game in the second half.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus - Chris Boswell continued his perfect record against the Bengals. Boswell is now 24-for-24 against the Bengals after booting the winning 38-yard field goal as time expired. Boswell has now kicked the winning field goal as time expired in three of the past four games. He also had game-winners at Indianapolis and against Green Bay last week. The Steelers might have found a kickoff returner in Martavis Bryant, who had a 96-yard return that was called back by a holding penalty. Reserve safety J.J. Wilcox was called for the hold and got called for another hold on a punt return.

--COACHING: B - The Steelers got off to a slow start against the Bengals, but they made the necessary adjustments to get their 10th victory. Give defensive coordinator Keith Butler and his players credit for holding the Bengals out of the end zone in the second half. Butler has to shore up his pass defense until cornerback Joe Haden returns from injury, but he has put his players in position to win games. The offense scored 20 points in the second half after scoring only three points in the first half. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley deserves credit getting his unit going in the third and fourth quarters.

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