Ryan Shazier will not play in the 2017 Pro Bowl, but neither will he be forgotten when the NFL’s annual all-star game is contested Jan. 28 in Orlando.
Shazier was honored along with seven teammates for what had been a breakout season in his fourth year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had 68 unassisted tackles, 11 passes defensed and three interceptions from his linebacker spot and was widely considered the team’s best defensive player. Then he was severely injured in the season’s 12th game while making a first-quarter tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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Shazier grabbed his back, was carted off the field in obvious discomfort and without moving his legs. Multiple reports later reported he did have feeling and movement in his lower extremities. He underwent spinal stabilization surgery three days after the game, after returning from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. He subsequently was placed on injured reserve, ending his season officially.
The Steelers have been cautious about releasing public updates regarding his condition, although he did appear at the team’s game against the New England Patriots on Sunday and was seated in a private box at Heinz Field.
Shazier’s Pro Bowl selection was his first (he was an injury replacement for the Ravens’ C.J. Mosley last season). Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva also made it for the first time, as did kicker Chris Boswell. Receiver Antonio Brown, running back Le’Veon Bell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linemen David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey have made it multiple times. Their eight total selections was the most of any team.
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Following Shazier’s injury, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler told NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala earlier this month. “I’m not worried about him playing for us again. I’m more worried about him; the football stuff is secondary. His life is a lot more important to me than football.”
Steelers players wore No. 50 T-shirts under their game jerseys for the team’s “Sunday Night Football” victory over Baltimore on Dec. 10, and veteran Roosevelt Nix displayed his after making a hard tackle on the opening kickoff.