Nothing that happened over the course of the 2017 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers was bigger or more important than the spinal injury suffered by linebacker Ryan Shazier. For so many reasons, that moment transcends the game, and reminds us that it is just a game, in the long run.
It has been nearly two months now since he was injured, and he hit an important milestone yesterday when he was able to shift from in-patient rehabilitation to out-patient rehabilitation, as he said, “officially being released from the hospital”.
Over Instagram, Shazier spent a good deal of time reaching out to those who have been there for him over the course of the past couple of months while he works to return from his spinal injury, and while he made special mention of God, his family, and his doctors and nurses, he also talked about his teammates.
“The support from my teammates has been truly amazing”, he wrote in a message attached to an image of himself and Ben Roethlisberger, assisting him to a standing position. “From former players to current players and their families- they have helped me and my family day to day with visits and gifts”.
I can’t help but wonder if the mention of “former players” has anything to do with James Harrison specifically, who has gone to see him in the hospital, though of course it also applies to all former teammates, going back to college and high school.
“We can’t thank you enough”, he went on. “I want to thank Mr. Rooney, Coach T, Mr. Colbert, and the entire Steelers organization for the unwavering support they’ve given me. I knew they were an amazing organization, but more than ever they’re family to me”.
Whenever we discuss the Steelers as an organization and the Rooney family at its core, the word ‘family’ does come up a lot. Going back to ‘the Chief’, Art Rooney, and through his son, Dan Rooney, who left us in 2017, now to his son, current president and primary owner Art Rooney II, a familial atmosphere has consistently been an important presence in how they do business.
The communal support and gathering around Shazier that the organization at very level has shown—really, that the whole city, and the whole diaspora of the team’s fan base ought to be included as well—is but another example of that family dynamic.
There is still a long road ahead for Shazier. I believe I can say that with confidence, even while he has chosen to keep the updates on his progress limited. I don’t think it’s a very productive conversation to hold right now about whether or not he will play again.
But wherever this path takes him, you can be sure that his teammates, his coaches, and the entire organization will be with him in the process. He has truly inspired a nation of supporters to ‘Shalieve’.