Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier received a standing ovation from the crowd at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday as the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The cheers grew louder, however, once Shazier stood up to acknowledge the fans.
Shazier, who was wearing a white Penguins winter hat, was helped to his feet by fiancee Michelle Rodriguez and another person before he raised his fist in the air and put his hand over his heart.
The 25-year-old Shazier is making progress after sustaining a season-ending spinal injury two months ago in the Steelers' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. He is using a walker or the assist of others as part of his rehab program.
Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery, which is expected to require months of rehab. He was discharged from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute last Thursday and is transitioning into an outpatient therapy program, the hospital announced.
The Pro Bowl selection hit Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone low with his shoulder pads, then immediately reached for his back while his legs remained motionless during a game on Dec. 4. Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery two days later.
Shazier finished with 89 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 11 passes defensed in 12 games this past season. In four NFL seasons, Shazier has 299 tackles, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven interceptions.