Shazier: 'It hasn't been an easy time'

There were smiles, laughter, and flat out emotion as Ryan Shazier addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon, hours after he announced his retirement via his social media accounts.

Shazier made the tough decision after talking with his family, including his wife Michelle, and realizing the timing was right.

"It hasn't been an easy time," admitted Shazier. "I have done everything I can the best that I can to hold it in and be my best self. I feel like right now is the best time to move forward and focus on the next steps in my life. I am truly excited about the future. I am excited about retirement. It's a little bit bittersweet. I never expected it to end so soon. I am excited about what's next.

"The last few years I have been working my tail off to come back and play. I just felt it was time for me to start transitioning, focus on my family more and the next steps in my life. It was tough for me. Football players try to hold on as long as possible."

One thing that has helped Shazier since the time he was injured in 2017 has been the support of his teammates, coaches and the organization. And that support was there for him during the zoom call, when General Manager Kevin Colbert, Coach Mike Tomlin and linebacker Vince Williams, the other half of 'shake and bake,' joined the call.

"When I think about you and your growth and development, I think about you two," said Tomlin, referring to Shazier and Williams. "I think about the mornings where you guys really sharpened your sword and developed your love for the game, and more importantly your commitment to the game. More than anything I want you to know how fun it was for me to watch that natural development. I appreciate you for allowing me to be a part of that.

"I have nothing but love for you. This is just the beginning. We want you to know we love you brother. We are looking forward to watching you take the next step in life."

Williams and Shazier built a bond that goes well beyond the football field, something that was evident the moment Williams spoke.

"I just want to tell you I love you man," said Williams. "Thank you for all of the memories. I really feel like you were always a much better person than you were a football player. When you are a person like that, it's always going to translate into things off the field. I want to let you know I love you bro."

With that, the two left the call, but the emotion didn't.

"Man, they almost made me cry," Shazier told those in the room with him during the call.

While that moment came close to bringing him to tears, when Colbert spoke to Shazier there wasn't a dry eye in the house. As Colbert finished speaking, and his voice cracked, he shared a message everyone in the Steelers family agrees with.

"I want you to know, you can retire from the game of football, but you are never going to retire from being a Pittsburgh Steeler," said Colbert.

Shazier said the support and love he is getting is very touching and emotional as well.

"It's very touching. Sometimes it's really hard for me," said Shazier. "Everybody that I played with, they all know much I put into the game. They know how much I love the game. Just to know they supported me, are there for me and still love me in the situation I am in really means a lot. Everybody doesn't get it to end the way they want, but I am excited. It's emotional when you hear and see it."

While he isn't going to be playing football this year, Shazier isn't fully stepping away from the game. He is going to be on Spotify on the Ringer's podcast every Tuesday talking NFL football, as well as working on his Shalieve Fight Foundation, helping people battling injuries similar to what he suffered.

He said he still loves the game and has no ill will toward it because of his injury, always keeping the same positive attitude now that he has had since he suffered his career-ending injury.

"My family made it a lot easier on me," said Shazier. "It's been tough for all of us, from the day I got hurt until now. We always have a positive mindset. It doesn't matter what situation I'm in, I'm always trying to find the positive way out of it. I get that from my mom. That is just the mindset I have. The better you feel about a situation, the better your chances are of being where you want to be.

"I didn't come back and play football again, but I am still transitioning, getting healthy. I am happy with where I am right now. At first it was tough, but I am at peace with where I am at."

Shazier said he wouldn't stop his sons, Ryan Jr. and Lyon, from playing football if they would like to one day, as he doesn't blame the game for his injury.

"If my boys love it enough and want to play, I am going to let them play," said Shazier. "I don't feel like football is why I got hurt. I should have been safer. At the end of the day it was a routine tackle. I don't have anger for the game of football."

Shazier even provided everyone, including himself, with a laugh about a step in his rehab that involved tackling his son.

"One day at my house I was doing rehab, my son was running away from me. It was funny," shared Shazier. "He tried to run away from me, and I tackled him as if was playing a football game. I think I tackled him too hard. It was kind of funny, but I think it was kind of an achievement that I was able to tackle my son. He is not an NFL running back, but it was kind of cool to chase your son and catch up with him and tackle him."

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