BY JOE KAY
CINCINNATI (AP) — Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a back injury during Pittsburgh’s 23-20 win over the Bengals on Monday night and remained hospitalized in Cincinnati overnight for evaluation.
Coach Mike Tomlin had no information about the extent of the injury after the game. ESPN reported that he went to the hospital to see Shazier on the team’s way back to Pittsburgh.
The team released a statement saying that Shazier won’t need surgery “at this time” and continues to improve. The Steelers were hopeful he could return to Pittsburgh later Tuesday.
Shazier lowered his shoulder and tackled receiver Josh Malone in the first quarter. He landed on his chest, reached for the middle of his back, and then rolled over. Shazier lifted his arms, flexing his right hand and calling for help, but otherwise did not appear to move much. He was removed from the field on a backboard and a cart, and then taken to a hospital for tests.
“Right now, we’re just happy that he’s getting the necessary medical attention that he deserves,” Tomlin said.
It’s a significant setback for one of the NFL’s top defenses. The Pro Bowl linebacker leads the Steelers in tackles and has three interceptions.
“Ryan is one of the biggest players on this defense,” linebacker Vince Williams said. “When we need a big play, he’s one of the guys we look to. It’s going to be tough.”
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict also was carted off the field in the fourth quarter after receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster leveled him with a high hit, and then walked over him. Smith-Schuster was flagged for an illegal hit and for taunting. Burfict was in concussion protocol after the game.
Burfict’s hit to Antonio Brown’s head during a 2015 playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium helped the Steelers rally for an 18-16 win and resulted in a three-game suspension for the Bengals linebacker. He’s kept up a running feud with Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell on Twitter.
“There was so much going on that I didn’t even know it was Burfict at first when I hit him,” Smith-Schuster said. “When I saw the replay, I realized I should have held back. That’s not me. There were a lot of guys going down. I messed up.”
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