It’s unclear how the Pittsburgh Steelers will approach Ryan Shazier’s contract this offseason. His deal is “unlikely” to toll and carry over into 2020, according to Art Rooney II last month, meaning he’s only weeks away from heading into free agency. However, Kevin Colbert did offer one bit of clarity of his rehab. Shazier still intends on working his way back to the NFL.
“It was significant improvement,” Colbert said of his rehab, per the Trib’s Joe Rutter. “We’re never going to take that away from Ryan. We have always told him we’ll never put a ceiling on it. When Ryan becomes healthy enough to play this game, which is his goal, we’ll make that decision and he’ll make that decision at that point, and we’ll respect it either way it goes.”
Colbert, however, declined to put a timetable on when Shazier may be healthy enough to continue his football career.
“You’re dealing with a young man who is trying to regain his career. We’ll always support that, whether it’s by a certain date or certain terms.”
As Colbert noted, Shazier’s progress since November of 2017 has been nothing short of remarkable. He’s gotten to a point where he can live a normal life, the most important part of his rehab. But his goal has always been beyond that, declaring nearly two years ago that he wanted to return to the NFL. It’s impossible for us on the outside to know if that will happen but clearly, Shazier isn’t shutting that door anytime soon. Since his injury, he’s worked as an informal coach and helped out on the scouting side, praised by coaches and teammates for his mentorship especially to Devin Bush in 2019.
Still, there is the important question of how the team proceeds going forward. If his contract can’t roll over like it did last year (and we’ve suspected it will, no one seems to know the answer) the Steelers will have to re-sign him. It’s unknown how feasible that is. All NFL players signed to contracts have to be able to pass a physical. Will the same apply to Shazier? That’s something I can’t answer. And if not, where does direction does the team take?
Given the complexity of the CBA, there should be some way to keep him on the roster. Shazier’s contract expiring isn’t a surprise, the team knew it was coming, and likely has a plan to address it, though Colbert called it a “unique” situation with murky answers most front offices have never dealt with.