Ryan Shazier won’t be able to play for the Steelers in 2019, but the team has decided to keep him anyway. 

The Steelers announced on Tuesday that they will be tolling Shazier’s contract for the 2019 season. This means that Shazier will be paid a salary commensurate with his years of service in the NFL. The move by Pittsburgh also means that Shazier will continue to accrue seasons toward his NFL players’ pension, and most importantly, it means that he’ll have the same medical insurance plan that every other active NFL player receives.

Shazier hasn’t suited up for the Steelers since December 2017, when he suffered a spinal contusion while trying to make a tackle during a game against the Bengals. A few days after the game, Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery, and he’s been out ever since

The Steelers drafted the linebacker during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he played three seasons with the team before suffering the injury. Shazier’s rookie contract expired following the 2018 season, which means he would have been out of the NFL if the team didn’t make a move before the official start of free agency on Wednesday. 

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert mentioned Shazier’s leadership skills and emotional support abilities as two big reasons why the team decided to keep him. 

“We will continue to support Ryan’s efforts to return to play,” 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.”

Although Shazier hasn’t been on the field for the Steelers, he has been very involved with the team. The linebacker has been a regular at team practices while he rehabs his injury. In an emotional moment at the 2018 draft, Shazier walked across the stage in Dallas and announced the Steelers’ first round pick. Shazier has been regularly posting rehab updates from his Instagram account, which you can follow by clicking here.  

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