Pittsburgh — At least one portion of Ryan Shazier’s daily routine hasn’t changed much from the previous time the Pittsburgh Steelers were preparing to face Cincinnati, even if the rest of the injured linebacker’s life is hardly the same.
Shazier still makes his way to the club’s practice facility around 7 a.m. most days.
Any teammate willing to drop by Shazier’s usual spot can feel free to pull out a notebook and start jotting Shazier’s thoughts while he serves as both peer and professor.
“He’s just trying to find little nitpick things,” Pittsburgh rookie safety Terrell Edmunds said.
It is Shazier’s way of staying connected to the game even as he continues his long and inspiring recovery from that frightening moment last December when the Pro Bowler lowered his helmet to hit Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone late in the first quarter, a play that ended with Shazier clutching his lower back in agony while players knelt around him in prayer and Paul Brown Stadium feel eerily silent.
Ten months later, the sight of Shazier being taken off the field on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance remains fresh as the Steelers (2-2-1) brace themselves for their annual visit to Cincinnati (4-1) on Sunday.
“It was just a really weird feeling after that happened,” Pittsburgh linebacker L.J. Fort said. “You’d make a good play but nobody was really jumping around or was excited or anything like that, so it was really sobering moment and brought to the forefront that football is not the most important thing in life.”
Though the 26-year-old remains open to the possibility of playing again — he’s able to get around the practice field without assistance these days and his practice clothes remain hanging in his locker much as they have been before he got hurt — he’s intent on helping in other ways.
His mere presence provides an emotional lift, but Shazier is intent on being something far beyond an avatar for inspiration. He’s become a go-between of sorts between the coaching staff and the defense. He can cut through the clutter and deliver some “real talk” when necessary.
During last Sunday’s 41-17 romp over Atlanta, Shazier sat on the bench with a tablet in hand. After every series the inside linebackers would crowd around him looking for instruction and insight. Shazier would offer words of encouragement when necessary or tips on how to avoid mistakes.
The Jaguars have ruled out running back Leonard Fournette for their game at Dallas. It will be the fourth game Fournette has missed this season.
The Jaguars (3-2) signed veteran Jamaal Charles on Tuesday with the expectation that Fournette would be sidelined for an extended period.