“We care about that man,” Tomlin said of Shazier during his postgame news conference. “We care about all the men. But that’s just a tough element of our game — one that we all understand.”
The injury came about four minutes into Pittsburgh’s Monday Night Football matchup with Cincinnati, which the Steelers won, 23-20. Shazier led with his helmet while tackling Josh Malone, a wide receiver, and then fell to the ground grabbing the middle of his back. It was apparent immediately that he had use of his upper body, but his legs did not appear to move. After a lengthy injury delay, he was strapped to a board and taken off the field.
Named to the Pro Bowl last year, Shazier was Pittsburgh’s leader in tackles coming into the game and had recorded three interceptions. A first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2014, Shazier has been one of the key players for a Pittsburgh defense that has helped the team to a 10-2 record, tied for the best in the N.F.L.
It was a brutally physical game between division rivals, with Vontaze Burfict of the Bengals also being carted off the field after JuJu Smith-Schuster, a rookie wide receiver for the Steelers, delivered an illegal block. Smith-Schuster loomed over Burfict after the play and was penalized for taunting, with Burfict trying to pull him onto the ground before members of the training staff came out to attend to his injuries. Burfict reportedly was released from the restraints shortly after leaving the field and walked into the locker room under his own power.
While Everett, Brown, Burroughs and Byrd all regained at least some ability to walk, Utley remains paralyzed. Stingley, who died in 2007, was unable to walk and never regained full use of his arms following a hit so traumatic that the player who delivered it, Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders, requested funds from the N.F.L.’s pension fund for mental anguish.
After Monday’s game concluded, several members of the Steelers posted their thoughts about Shazier on Twitter.