The Steelers lost one of the most important pieces of their defense for the night -- and perhaps for longer -- after linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered an ugly injury against the Bengals on Monday night.
With Cincy wide receiver Josh Malone going across the middle of the field on a short crossing route, Shazier came flying in to tackle him, lowered his head and, after making the tackle, immediately started grabbing at his back.
The do-it-all linebacker remained on the ground and had a stretcher brought out to take him off the field after being immobilized on a backboard. According to the Steelers, he was taken to a local hospital where he was evaluated by further tests.
UPDATE: #50 Ryan Shazier has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation on his back.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 5, 2017
He will not return to tonight’s game & there will be no further updates at this time.
Shazier was able to roll over onto his back, but as Sean McDonough noted during the broadcast, Shazier's legs did not move much after going to the ground.
His teammates were visibly upset, with several of them crowded around in a huddle near where Shazier went down, some getting emotional.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier being carted off with serious injury. #PITvsCIN pic.twitter.com/hy01FuL5RY— 247Sports (@247Sports) December 5, 2017
There has been plenty of bad blood between the two teams playing on Monday night, but this was simply a bad luck injury where Shazier led with the crown of his helmet and appeared to take a big shot to the back.
After the game, Mike Tomlin declined to take a lot of questions about Shazier, saying only that, "We'll release an update at the appropriate time. Right now we're just happy he's getting the necessary medical attention that he deserves."
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported a team source told him the injury was "better than what it could have been," which is certainly better news than the Steelers declining to provide an update to anyone.
Later, the Steelers released a statement that said Shazier won't require surgery at this time. He'll remain in the hospital overnight.
Statement by #Steelers GM/VP Kevin Colbert on LB Ryan Shazier pic.twitter.com/WEp6wktNCu— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) December 5, 2017
Michelle Steele reported on ESPN that the hospital was declining to update the media on the Shazier injury, citing HIPAA laws.
After the brutal shot, multiple players or former players offered their prayers for the scary injury.
Praying for Ryan Shazier 🙏🏾. Asking for others to do the same. #SteelersNation— Steve Smith Sr (@89SteveSmith) December 5, 2017
Prayers up for @RyanShazier 🙏🏾— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) December 5, 2017
Sending prayer and good energy your way @RyanShazier— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) December 5, 2017
Our thoughts and prayers are with @Steelers LB Ryan Shazier.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 5, 2017
Shazier has been having an outstanding season, recording 87 total tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed so far. He's one of the more important pieces for what the Steelers hope is a championship-caliber defense, although right now his health is a much bigger concern.