Ryan Shazier has meant a lot to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and to the city of Pittsburgh, since the team made him the 15th-overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. He provided them with exactly what they were looking for, and what they needed, from the linebacker position.
And then in an instant, they had that taken away from them. Shazier had football taken away from him. But he still has the Steelers. He still has Pittsburgh. and Pittsburgh still has him. The linebacker spoke in front of the media and answered questions earlier this week for the first time since he suffered a severe spinal injury in December, as we’ve covered extensively.
Shazier talked quite a bit about how thankful he was for all the support he has received from everybody, but others are thanking him as well and talking about what he has given back, even, or perhaps especially, through his injury.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward was asked about that relationship that the team has had with Shazier during his recovery and about the critical steps toward improvement that he has been able to make along the way.
“It’s meant a lot”, he told reporters. “Not just for this team, but for this city. I think [for] everybody who’s heard his story, it’s huge”. And it’s true. Through his injury and his subsequent recovery, he has been able to reach and touch a number of people even outside of the world of football.
But Heyward pointed out that battling through and overcoming adversity was not something new in Shazier’s life. While trying to teach your body how to walk again is certainly of an entirely different nature, he is somebody who has become quite familiar with advancing past obstacles in life.
“Ryan’s always been a fighter. Dealing with Alopecia, always having something going on, and then this past year, he’s constantly battled back”, Heyward said of his friend. “Ryan—we won’t let you in on everything, but Ryan has definitely jumped over a lot of hurdles, and I’m just excited for him to keep climbing this mountain”.
I’m sure the veteran defensive end speaks for the whole team in his remarks about Shazier. They miss seeing their brother out there with them in drills, but he remains a presence on the field, as you can clearly see in the header image above.
Some have been more hesitant to talk about it than others, perhaps not wanting to make it a story or to avoid talking about something more personal to them, but just looking at that picture, it’s obvious how easily he draws others to him.
Even Nat Berhe, signed in free agency in March, is hanging around him. Coty Sensabaugh was a free agent last year. They don’t have the same sort of long history with Shazier that Heyward and others do, but he is that sort of person. Seeing his own drive, pushing himself every day, is inspiring for many people. Even for his brothers on the field.