It took some time for Ryan Shazier to get back into the fold with the Pittsburgh Steelers after he suffered a career-ending spinal injury toward the end of the 2017 season. He had a great deal of rehab that he had to go through, first just to be able to stand under his own power, then to slowly be able to walk again. When he walked out on stage during the 2018 NFL Draft to announce the team’s first pick, it was an incredibly inspiring moment.
He eventually found himself back as a regular presence at the team facilities, however, and though he was still technically under contract as a player, the Steelers were finding other ways to get him involved in ways he was interested in pursuing. He sat in on meetings with coaches, with scouts, with the front office, learning the game from every angle.
“The one thing about the coaching, the scouting, it really just showed me a different side of the business”, he told reporters on Wednesday after announcing his retirement. “As a player, you’re focused on making the plays in that moment. As a coach, you’re focused on telling guys the situations so they can make plays. And then with the scouting, it’s like, we’re trying to find guys that can make plays 10 years down the road”.
“It’s kind of cool because it’s just different aspects of the game, and you’re actually just looking at it from a different perspective. As a player, sometimes you’re like, ‘man, these scouts don’t know what they’re talking about’”, he joked—at least, partly joked.
The scouts obviously got something about him right, because the Steelers used their 15th-overall pick to grab him in the first round. He was the highest the team had drafted anybody since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, at least until last year when they moved up to land Devin Bush, the man they hope can bring what he brought to the table.
“When it comes to coaching, it’s almost like playing, but it’s just on a bigger scale”, Shazier said. “They have to figure out how to outsmart each other on every play, every down. It’s mostly putting players in the best situations. Some guys you know can make more plays than others. Some guys you know might be in a tougher situation or a tougher matchup than others. Great coaches like Coach Tomlin, they figure out how to scheme it up to get all your guys in the best position”.
He is going to begin working with a podcast for The Ringer about football, so he is showing that he clearly wants to stay in the game. Could a path toward coaching or scouting be in his future? It’s not exactly uncommon within the organization.
Jerry Olsavsky is a former player on the staff. Others like Carnell Lake and Joey Porter have recently been present. Their scouts include Chidi Iwuoma and Mark Bruener, who more men who once suited up in the black and gold. If this is what he wants for the future, you can have no doubt that the Steelers will empower him to work toward any role he wants within the organization.