Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier remains hospitalized following a frightening back injury he suffered Monday night following a tackle of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone.
Shazier was taken during the game to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he had a CT scan and an MRI to evaluate the condition of his back. Although he was held overnight, Shazier was deemed to not need emergency surgery in the immediate aftermath.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he had no update on Shazier’s status beyond what the team issued following the game.
“From my perspective, obviously, it was a tough evening,” Tomlin said back in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “Man, Ryan is a trouper. I had an opportunity to spend some time with him and he’s in really good spirits. Tough guy. He’s got great support from family and loved ones there.”
The team sent a private plane to pick up Shazier’s parents in Florida, NFL Network reported, and they are said to be with him now.
Both Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert were whisked to the hospital to visit with Shazier following Monday’s game. Tomlin indicated that Shazier is in good hands — one of the Steelers’ team doctors, David Okonkwo, has remained with him throughout — but that it was tough to leave the hospital knowing they couldn’t be with him.
“It was painful to get on that plane last night. But that’s life,” Tomlin said. “We understand and realize that he’s in really good hands and is getting expert medical care.”
Colbert issued a statement after the game updating the linebacker’s health, saying he “continues to improve.” It suggests that the situation was not as dire as it could have been considering the scariness of the hit, although Shazier clearly faces a long recovery and the next few days will be crucial to determining his long-term health.
NFL Network reported that Shazier had regained some movement in his lower body. But the swelling still needs to go down, which could take up to a week, before any clear medical picture might be available.
Shazier led with his helmet while tackling Malone and waved for help almost immediately, also grabbing his back following the hit. Trainers ran onto the field to assist, and Shazier was carted off the field after the injury.
The Steelers also have the football aspect to think about when the time is right. Shazier is unquestionably one of their on-field leaders and performers. He leads the team in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles and is one of their best pass defenders respective to his position. The team also lost his in-game replacement, Tyler Matakevich, later in the win over the Bengals to a shoulder injury.
But Shazier’s impact on the team’s locker room can’t be understated. He’s considered one of the most popular and dependable players on the team, respected almost universally for his commitment to the team. Tomlin said Shazier sent a message that the team needs to keep fighting the good fight on the field as he fights for his own health.
“He challenged us to move on with what it is we need to move on [with],” Tomlin said.