The Steelers announced they will keep linebacker Ryan Shazier on the team’s roster this coming season, tolling his contract. They will then place him on the reserve/physically unable to perform list for the remainder of 2019.
Shazier will not play this season, the team already announced, as his rehabilitation from a spinal injury continues.
“We will continue to support Ryan’s efforts to return to play,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “Although he won’t be able to help us on the field in 2019, his leadership, insight, and emotional support have always been very valuable to us, and we look forward to his contributions in our pursuit of a championship.”
Shazier suffered the frightening injury late in the 2017 season, one that caused him to lose feeling in his lower body. He was diagnosed with a spinal contusion; spinal stabilization surgery has allowed him to speed up his remarkable recovery.
Despite not playing last season, Shazier served as a rallying force for Steelers players and fans alike. He shocked many when he walked across the AT&T Stadium stage at the 2018 NFL draft to announce the team’s first-round selection of safety Terrell Edmunds and reportedly has upgraded to jogging after it was feared initially that he might never walk again.
What this move means
The Steelers are graciously paying Shazier the NFL’s veteran minimum salary, and his place on the PUP list affords him access to insurance and benefits. The Rooney family should be applauded for this move, tolling Shazier’s contract and keeping him around the team.
Shazier had been slated for free agency, but he’ll remain with the Steelers for now, even though he won’t play this season.
But for a team that will lose Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and whose coach, Mike Tomlin, suddenly is facing quite a bit of pressure, Shazier might serve as an inspirational figure as he continues his rehab.
The team already had converted more than $8 million of his salary into a signing bonus, so it’s clear how much the Steelers value and support him.
Will Shazier ever play again?
It’s a very difficult question to answer.
The easy response is that Shazier has too far to come, that the risks of returning to the field might be too great to overcome. But given the remarkable progress he has made, along with Shazier’s stated determination to come back to the field one day, it can’t be completely ruled out.
"Almost every week, he’s doing something he wasn’t doing the week before," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in January. "He’s a remarkable young man and an inspiration to everybody around here."
The Steelers clearly want to assist him any way they can in what has been a tough time for the vaunted franchise.
More from Yahoo Sports: