I think that the highlight of the draft weekend for most Pittsburgh Steelers had little to do with the acquisition of new players, but rather the sight of one of their own. I’m not talking about Max Starks or Rod Woodson, both of whom announced picks on day two, or Craig Wolfley, who announced a person who announced a pick on day three.
No, I’m talking about the man who made the announcement for their first-round draft pick, safety Terrell Edmunds. Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, in the process of recovering from a devastating in-game spinal injury suffered in December, publicly walked for the first time out to the podium to make the announcement.
Few outside of those directly involved were aware that this would happen, and presumably the logistics of the plan were installed late. But it was a goal of Shazier’s, as General Manager Kevin Colbert pointed out in his remarks during the team’s post-draft press conference.
“Ryan has been setting goals”, he told reporters. “He was ready to walk when he was ready to walk. He was going to make that determination. It was a goal of his. Since he’s been working with us in the draft preparation, we thought that would be a good opportunity. It was up to him. He did great. Again, it’s amazing”.
While Shazier was generally maintained privacy over the nature of his recovery on a day-to-day basis, he has also been actively making us involved over the course of a number of public appearances this offseason.
He has stood at a number of public functions, and each time doing so he looked better and stronger and more able to support himself for a longer duration of time. We knew that he had been working on regaining the ability to walk under his own power but were not aware of where he was on the road to recovery.
It was a remarkable moment to be able to be there to see yet another major milestone in his recovery, for a first down as he calls it, as he looks to return to the football field and resume his path to the Hall of Fame, which is his goal.
It would probably not be the right place to talk about the gait with which he walked, but it’s clear that he was being very cautious, and seemed to grimace at one point. This should not be discouraging, and his ability to walk will become easier and less burdensome over time as he continues to make progress.
The Steelers were hoping to find his on-field replacement in the draft this season, and had they been able to, Shazier would have been announcing the name of a linebacker—reportedly, Rashaan Evans. But there is no way they could ever replace him off the field. He is a Steeler for life whether he ever plays again or not.