There’s no question Ryan Shazier’s spine injury shook the entire Pittsburgh Steelers roster. Immediately after the injury and with a critical game against Baltimore upcoming, it was understandably tough to focus on football, secondary to their teammates well-being. Today, speaking with Rich Eisen on NFL Network, Joe Haden offered some insight into how Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II kept players updated.
“I think that the Steelers with Coach Tomlin and Mr. Rooney and the organization, they dealt with it the best way they possibly could,” Haden said. “Everybody asking questions, trying to figure out what’s going on and us not really knowing. My man, he didn’t really have any feeling in his legs.”
After suffering the injury against the Cincinnati Bengals, Shazier stayed in the city for the next few nights while the rest of the team flew back to Pittsburgh. That made the situation even more difficult, their brother hours away. But Tomlin kept the situation as transparent as possible.
“When we get back to the facility and meetings the next week, Coach Tomlin and Mr. Rooney, they had the doctor – Shazier’s actual doctor – that was with him at his bedside, come in before each team meeting that week and just let us know, give us updates on how he was doing.”
Though still an incredibly difficult time, that provided at least some clarity to the players. And when Shazier was flown back to Pittsburgh, the organization set things up to ensure teammates could visit.
“When he got back to Pittsburgh, they had it set up so we could go to the hospital, visit him. Had escorts bring us up there. The set up it was, the communication, to let us know how our guy was doing was amazing.”
That’s something the team has done with regularity. For example, all the linebackers visit him (and bring him food) every Friday.
Haden said Shazier’s doctor talked to the team for three straight days before their 9 AM team meeting, providing some sense of comfort and at the least, understanding of the situation and Shazier’s condition.
The focus was also on Shazier’s family. The Rooney’s sent their private plane to pick up his parents in Florida and bring them to Cincinnati. A classy gesture but one you’d expect from this ownership.
The good news know is that Shazier appears to be making progress in his physical rehab and just as importantly, is in great spirits. He has the support of the team and the city. Haden’s comments serve as a reminder that football players are human beings first and aren’t just defined by their job. Tomlin and Rooney seemed to do a great job of addressing that aspect to allow the group to come together and shift their focus back on football.
Pittsburgh would go on to beat the Ravens that weekend, capture the AFC North, and give Shazier the game ball.
"He is my favorite coach I've ever played for… He's far from the problem on our team."@JoeHaden23 talks Tomlin, Bell and the Steelers' season.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 21, 2018