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NFL: Steelers’ Ryan Shazier upbeat despite spinal injury

Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Shazier (50) reacts as he is carted off the field after a injury against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half on Monday.
(John Grieshop / Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will remain in a Cincinnati hospital until at least Wednesday to undergo further testing on a spinal injury suffered in the first quarter of Monday night’s win over the Bengals.

Shazier left Paul Brown Stadium on a stretcher less than four minutes into his team’s 23-20 victory over Cincinnati following a tackle that left the 25-year-old writhing on the turf, his legs motionless. He underwent extensive testing overnight, with the team saying Shazier’s injury did not require surgery “at this time.”

The Steelers had hoped Shazier would be able to return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The timetable has been pushed back at least 24 to 48 hours. He is expected to be transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital later in the week.

While the severity of the injury will remain unknown until the swelling subsides, the relentlessly upbeat Shazier offered a bit of hope Tuesday evening.

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“Thank you for the prayers,” Shazier tweeted. “Your support is uplifting to me and my family. #SHALIEVE”

While Shazier stayed in Cincinnati surrounded by family and his medical team, the Steelers are left trying to find a way forward without one of their rising stars.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II visited Shazier before heading back to Pittsburgh. Tomlin called their conversation “normal” and said Shazier was concerned about the rest of the team.

“Ryan is a legitimate leader,” Tomlin said, and added, “It was painful to get on that plane last night, but that’s life.”

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Shazier’s injury came on a relatively innocuous-looking play. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton hit Josh Malone for a three-yard gain, with Shazier leading with his head as he hit Malone square in the back. He immediately rolled over onto his back, raising his hands in the air while his legs went limp. He was placed on a backboard, then put on a stretcher before being taken to the trauma center at University of Cincinnati Medical Center while players from both sides watched in silence or knelt in prayer.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio spot on 93.7 The Fan that he’d heard “encouraging things” but that Shazier was “not out of the woods.”

The Steelers (10-2) spent Tuesday taking a breath before trying to regroup for a visit by AFC North rival Baltimore (7-5) on Sunday.

A win and Pittsburgh will wrap up its third division title in four years, a prospect made more difficult without Shazier, a Pro Bowler in his fourth season after being taken in the first round of the 2014 draft.

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Suspensions

Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was suspended one game by the NFL for his block on Vontaze Burfict that knocked the Cincinnati linebacker out with a concussion.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also are in concussion protocol.

Bengals safety George Iloka also was suspended one game for his high hit on Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the end zone.

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The NFL denied New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s appeal of his one-game suspension.

Injury updates

Atlanta Falcons guard Andy Levitre (triceps) won’t play Thursday against New Orleans, ending a streak of 140 starts. ... Several players were placed on injured reserve: Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (neck injury); Chicago Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long (shoulder) for the second straight season; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee) and defensive end Shaq Lawson (ankle); and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (ACL).

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