Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier undergoes spinal surgery after severe injury

Ben Snell, Contributor

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It was the beginning of a Monday Night Football game on December 4 between division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. As the Bengals drove down the field,  Steelers star linebacker Ryan Shazier went to make a tackle. Leading head first and eyes down, he collided with the player and collapsed to the ground, grabbing his back.

Shazier would be placed on a backboard and carted off the field, unable to move his legs (although he said he had feeling). He was immediately taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was evaluated for a spinal contusion.  After a few days there, Shazier was transported back home to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on December 6.

It was there that the UPMC Neurosurgeons performed spinal stabilization surgery on Shazier a day later. Dr. David Okonkwo and Dr. Joseph Maroon performed the procedure. NFL Insider Ian Rapoport  stated that it will take months of recovery time for Shazier before a return to football can even be considered.

Rapoport said, “From what I am told by several sources informed of this situation, the recovery that would be associated with the spinal stabilization surgery would take months, three or four or maybe even five or six, just before Ryan Shazier even considers playing football again or his future. But understand, this is a very serious situation for Ryan Shazier. We don’t know much, if anything, about his football playing future. We do know that his 2017 season is over, and he remains hospitalized in Pittsburgh as he recovers from spinal stabilization surgery.”

After the Steelers pulled out the key 23-20 division win on that Monday night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, owner Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert visited Shazier in the hospital.

Steelers defensive coordinator, Keith Butler, told NFL Network,  “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.”

Many of Shazier’s teammates, competitors, and those who follow or participate in football took to Twitter this week to pray for Shazier. Teammate and Steelers safety Mike Mitchell tweeted, “For those concerned just got off the phone with 50 (Shazier’s number). He’s in good spirits already making progress! God has him. Keep praying and believing in faith…”

Even the Steelers biggest rival, the Baltimore Ravens took to Twitter, saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Steelers LB Ryan Shazier.”

The injury transcends football and rivalries. At the end of the day, nobody wants to see a player get carted off the field, unable to move his legs.

Tomlin spoke to media the day after the injury, saying, “Ryan is a legitimate leader. He was asking about the guys, Vince [Williams] particularly. I told him about the guys, we talked about how the game unfolded and some of those things — normal conversations. Not only is he a mentally tough guy but he’s a guy who is spiritually in a great place and I know that is an asset to him and his family.”

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