PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier announced his retirement on Wednesday, nearly three years after a severe spinal injury forced the two-time Pro Bowler to put his career on hold.
The 28-year-old said in a social media post that while he still loves the game, it is time to get on to the next chapter in his life.
“Football gave me everything I wanted and more,” Shazier said. “It taught me about hard work, dedication. Took me to college and the NFL, it made me money and gave me a life most people could only dream about.”
Shazier was a budding star when he hit Cincinnati wide receiver Josh Malone in a road game against the Bengals on Dec. 4, 2017. The crown of Shazier’s helmet struck Malone in the back at the end of a seemingly routine play. Shazier grabbed his lower back in pain immediately after the impact and his legs were motionless as medical personnel tended to him on the field.
Shazer spent time in the hospital and underwent spine stabilization surgery a few days after the injury that brought his career to a halt. He vowed that his career was not over, and his comeback became a point of inspiration that reached far outside the world of the NFL.
He used the phrase #Shalieve during his recovery, which included him walking on stage at the 2018 NFL draft to announce the team’s first-round selection. He continued to work out regularly at the club’s practice facility and the social media posts chronicling his comeback often went viral.
Shazier remained close to his teammates and served as a de facto scout and assistant coach each of the last two seasons, serving as a mentor of sorts to 2019 first-round pick Devin Bush — considered Shazier’s heir — and others.
The Steelers placed him on the physically unable to perform list for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons before moving him to the reserve/retired list in March. It was considered a paper move at the time as Shazier remained committed to pressing forward.
It’s something he still plans on doing, just not in the same direction.
“It’s been over 1,000 days since I got hurt on the field ” Shazier said. “To lose the game in a way I never envisioned has not been easy. For you to play the game of football the way I did, you convince yourself you’re Superman. That nothing can stop you — but then the moment I got hurt I stopped being Superman, and that was difficult to make sense of.
“But the way I look at it, God put us all here for a purpose. For 20 years, he let me play football, and now it’s time for me to do what he wants me to do.”