Tonight’s Steelers-Bengals game was brutal—football that can charitably be described as “old-school” and accurately, necessarily described as “sickening.” The hits came and kept coming, with the injury count ticking upward. The night’s worst injury, though, happened only minutes after kick-off, when Ryan Shazier was carted off the field after a first-quarter tackle attempt.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin declined to discuss the status of the 25-year-old linebacker in his postgame comments, saying only that he had no update to share and wouldn’t engage in any speculation. After the game, ESPN cut to Michele Steele outside the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where Shazier was taken in an ambulance immediately after the play. All Steele could confirm was that Shazier’s lower body had been limp as he was carted off the field, and that there were Steelers personnel at the hospital with him. There was nothing else to say.
Subsequent updates have trickled out, slowly, and nearly all of them using vague words like “encouraging” or “better” or “alright.” This can, perhaps, seem positive, but not too much so considering that an idea like “it’s better than it could’ve been” still leaves some very bleak shit on the table.
Nearly an hour after the game wrapped, the first word of a potential official diagnosis came—a spinal contusion—but even that came with plenty of uncertainty.
Even when teams don’t make official announcements on injuries like this, there’s often a steady stream of information throughout the night: an agent texting to say that there’s movement in the player’s lower extremities, a sideline reporter weighing in with a preliminary status update from the hospital. When fans went to bed on Monday night, they did so with very little of that. That isn’t necessarily bad—and hopefully it’s not!—but it sure doesn’t feel good.