By Daniel Benjamin
Injured starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier has been transferred back to Pittsburgh and will undergo further tests and evaluation at UPMC as he continues to be treated for a spinal injury. Shazier had been at the University of Cincinnati’s Health Medical Center since being hauled off the field on a stretcher in the first quarter of Monday’s night game.
Shazier suffered a spinal cord concussion while making a tackle when his head hit Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone’s thigh. There has been no official prognosis as to the extent of the injury as there is swelling in the spinal area.
Recovery Time a Question Mark
The good news is that he was stable enough to be return to the Burgh. However, there are several factors that will affect the timeframe of his recovery, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Some of those factors include how long it takes the swelling to go down, whether any other injuries were incurred and where exactly the injury is located along the spine.
Shazier has turned into one of the Steelers’ top playmakers. The 25-year-old currently leads the team with 89 tackles (68 solos). He also has five tackles for losses and three interceptions along with two forced fumbles.
Who Will Start in Shazier’s Place?
It will be interesting to see which player the Steelers decide to start in place of Shazier against the Ravens. 24-year-old Tyler Matakevich seems to be the most likely choice, as he was on the field for 41 defensive snaps against the Bengals. But Matakevich, who made four tackles on Monday, suffered a shoulder injury Monday night and did not participate in practice on Wednesday. His status for Sunday’s night game is unknown.
Veterans L.J. Fort and Arthur Moats are other options, as is recently signed Sean Spence, who the Steelers re-signed on Tuesday to provide depth. Spence, the Steelers’ third round choice in 2012, appeared in 31 games for the team from 2015-16. He made 54 tackles in 15 games with the Tennessee Titans in 2016 and was on the field for three games with the Indianapolis Colts before getting released in October.
For his career, Spence has recorded 134 tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for losses, eight quarterback hits, three pass defensed, a force fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Antonio Brown an MVP Candidate?
Antonio Brown has been fantastic over the last three weeks. Brown has hauled in 28 receptions for 414 yards and six touchdowns during this three-game stretch. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler believes that Brown could enhance his MVP candidacy with a strong December.
The 2017 AFC Week 11 Offensive Player of the Week leads the league with 88 catches on 142 targets (66.4% completion rate). Brown also tops the league in receiving yards (1296) and receiving yards per game (108.0), and is tied for first with nine touchdowns. He is fourth in yards from scrimmage and third in all-purpose yards. His 14.7 yards per catch is his best since racking up 16.1 yards per reception in 2011.
December has traditionally been a productive month for Brown. In 30 December contests, Brown has 177 receptions for 2365 ( 78.8 yards per game) and 16 touchdowns.