The good news for the Pittsburgh Steelers is that Ryan Shazier thinks he’s ready to return this Sunday to face the New England Patriots. The concerning part is that the interior linebacker might have to wear a knee brace, and that’s assuming the coaches even allow him to play.
Steelers insider Mike Prisuta reports that Shazier “expects” to be in uniform this week, adding that he was a full participant in practice on Thursday. However, the question for the third-year player is whether he’ll be hampered by a brace, or even needs one.
Either way, Shazier doesn’t seem to be sweating it — too much.
“We’re just testing it out,” Shazier said. “I went without it yesterday and with it today. I feel like I’m still 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash) with the brace. I think I was still 4.3 when I had the injury. I just couldn’t go side to side as well.”
Those limitations going side to side might be enough to give the Steelers coaching staff second thoughts. While you would think Shazier even at 75 percent might be better than the alternative, Pittsburgh doesn’t need to concede any extra advantages to a loaded Patriots offense, no matter how slight they might be.
The fact that Shazier was able to practice without the brace would seem to suggest he’s close to 100 percent. Although that might be yet another reason to consider holding him out on Sunday. The Steelers have a bye next week, which would give Shazier the opportunity to make a full recovery before returning.
Yet, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger already ruled out for Sunday, the Steelers might not have much hope of knocking off the Patriots without arguably their best defensive playmaker. Unless Shazier is seriously affected by that brace or he’s at risk of aggravating the injury, the coaches will probably want him in there.