Discipline starts fallout for cringe-worthy Steelers-Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier lies on the field after an apparent injury in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will remain in a Cincinnati hospital until at least Wednesday to undergo further testing on a spinal injury suffered in the first quarter of Monday night’s win over the Bengals.

Shazier left Paul Brown Stadium on a stretcher less than four minutes into his team’s 23-20 victory over Cincinnati following a tackle that left the 25-year-old writhing on the turf, his legs motionless. He underwent extensive testing overnight, with the team saying Shazier’s injury did not require surgery “at this time.”

The Steelers had hoped Shazier would be able to return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The timetable has been pushed back at least 24 to 48 hours. He will remain at University of Cincinnati Medical Center under the care of neurosurgeons David Okonwko and Joseph Cheng. Shazier is expected to be transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital later in the week.

While the severity of the injury will remain unknown until the swelling subsides, the relentlessly upbeat Shazier offered a bit of hope Tuesday evening.

“Thank you for the prayers,” Shazier tweeted. “Your support is uplifting to me and my family. #SHALIEVE”

While Shazier stayed in Cincinnati surrounded by family and his medical team, the Steelers are left trying to find a way forward without one of their rising stars.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II visited Shazier before heading back to Pittsburgh. Tomlin called their conversation “normal” and said Shazier was concerned about the well-being of the rest of the team, including good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams.

“Ryan is a legitimate leader,” Tomlin said. “He’s asking about the guys, Vince particularly. I told him about the guys. We talked about how the game unfolded.”

And not about Shazier’s prognosis.

“It was painful to get on that plane last night, but that’s life,” Tomlin said. “We realize and understand he’s in really good hands and is getting expert medical care. He challenged us to move on with what we need to move on with.”

Shazier’s injury came on a relatively innocuous-looking play. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton hit Josh Malone for a short 3-yard gain, with Shazier hitting Malone square in the back. Shazier, in his fourth season after being taken in the first round of the 2014 draft, led with his head while making the tackle.

He immediately rolled over onto his back, raising his hands in the air while his legs went limp. He was placed on a backboard, then put on a stretcher before being taken to the trauma center at University of Cincinnati Medical Center while players from both sides watched in silence or knelt in prayer.

“I’ve been in football all my life. Unfortunately injuries occur, serious injuries occur from time to time. They’re capable of shaking you,” Tomlin said. “We all deal with it in different ways.”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio spot on 93.7 The Fan that he’d heard “encouraging things” but that Shazier was “not out of the woods.”

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