Steelers' Shazier remains hospitalized, undergoing testing for spinal injury
Pittsburgh linebacker hits head making tackle in Monday nighter
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will remain in a Cincinnati hospital until at least Wednesday to undergo further testing on a spinal injury suffered in the first quarter of Monday night's win over the Bengals.
Shazier left Paul Brown Stadium on a stretcher less than four minutes into his team's 23-20 victory over Cincinnati following a tackle that left the 25-year-old writhing on the turf, his legs motionless. He underwent extensive testing overnight, with the team saying Shazier's injury did not require surgery "at this time."
The Steelers had hoped Shazier would be able to return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The timetable has been pushed back at least 24 to 48 hours. He will remain at University of Cincinnati Medical Center under the care of neurosurgeons David Okonwko and Joseph Cheng. Shazier is expected to be transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital later in the week.
While Shazier stayed in Cincinnati surrounded by family and his medical team, his team tried to find a way forward without one of its rising stars.
This makes me sick. Prayers up for Ryan Shazier 🙏 <a href="https://t.co/Bpz31uDXwG">pic.twitter.com/Bpz31uDXwG</a>—@FootballPIayers
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II visited Shazier before heading back to Pittsburgh. Tomlin called their conversation "normal" and that Shazier was concerned about the well-being of the rest of the team, including good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams.
"Ryan is a legitimate leader," Tomlin said. "He's asking about the guys, Vince particularly. I told him about the guys. We talked about how the game unfolded."
And not about Shazier's prognosis.
"It was painful to get on that plane last night, but that's life," Tomlin said. "We realize and understand he's in really good hands and is getting expert medical care. He challenged us to move on with what we need to move on with."
Shazier's injury came on a relatively innocuous-looking play. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton hit Josh Malone for a short three-yard gain, with Shazier hitting Malone square in the back. Shazier, in his fourth season after being taken in the first round of the 2014 draft, led with his head while making the tackle.
Taken to trauma centre
He immediately rolled over onto his back, raising his hands in the air while his legs went limp. He was placed on a backboard then put on a stretcher before being taken to the trauma centre at University of Cincinnati Medical Center while players from both sides watched in silence or knelt in prayer.
"I've been in football all my life, unfortunately injuries occur, serious injuries occur from time to time, they're capable of shaking you," Tomlin said. "We all deal with it in different ways."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio spot on 93.7 The Fan that he'd heard "encouraging things" but that Shazier was "not out of the woods."
Pittsburgh appeared to spend much of the first half in a daze following Shazier's exit, falling behind by 17 points before rallying to win their seventh straight on Chris Boswell's field goal on the final snap, culminating more than three hours of occasionally brutal play.
The teams combined for 239 penalty yards and five personal fouls, including a taunting penalty on Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a blindside hit on Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict that resulted in Smith-Schuster being hit with a one-game suspension .
Bengals defensive back George Iloka was also suspended one game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
"I'll acknowledge there were some unfortunate things in that game that we don't need in our game by both sides," Tomlin said. "My job as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers is to work hard to minimize those things that we're involved in before they occur and we do.
"But they did (occur) last night in an instance or two and we'll make an accounting of that and work hard to make sure they don't happen again.