As if Steelers fans didn’t have enough about which to get excited Sunday, with their team hosting the Patriots in a massive AFC showdown, they were treated to an unexpected and most welcome sight: Ryan Shazier. The injured Pittsburgh linebacker got a roar from the crowd as he made an appearance at Heinz Field.
During a stoppage in play early in the first quarter, Shazier was shown on stadium video screens. The fourth-year player, whose career could be in jeopardy following spinal surgery earlier this month, waved a Terrible Towel from a luxury suite while remaining seated.
Shazier was injured while making a tackle in a Dec. 4 game at Cincinnati. He was initially taken to a hospital there before being transported to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he underwent spinal stabilization surgery and where he has remained.
Earlier this week, UPMC released a statement saying that Shazier had begun rehabilitation, but little information has been made public about his condition. The Steelers placed the 2016 Pro Bowler on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season, with team President Art Rooney II saying, “Even off the field Ryan will continue to be one of our team leaders. We know his spirit and positive outlook will help him to continue in his recovery, as well as serve as an inspiration to our team.”
Shazier is expected to require months of rehabilitation, and several teammates and coaches have said they just want to see him walk again. Some Pittsburgh players have been wearing cleats with the message “Shalieve,” and the team gave Shazier the game ball last week after clinching the AFC North title with a win over the Ravens.
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said that Shazier wanted to be in attendance at Heinz Field on Sunday, and that it was part of his rehabilitation process. According to CBS, Shazier did not visit his teammates before the game, in which 11-2 Pittsburgh was trying to stay atop 10-3 New England in the race for top seeding in the playoffs.
During the game, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown injured his left calf in the first half and had to be helped off the field. He was later taken to a hospital and was ruled out for the rest of the contest.
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