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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Ryan Shazier went on teammate Rosie Nix’s podcast and made unequivocally and indisputably clear one thing — he wants to play football again.

This isn’t about walking again under his own power.

This isn’t about leading a “normal life” and just subsisting as a regular person.

His ambition runs a lot deeper. He wants to play football again. And sooner rather than later.

OK, so now that such a statement is on record to the public — and I’m sure relayed to the Steelers beforehand — there could be a bit of an issue at play moving forward: How do the Steelers tread into the ever-so-delicate territory on the contract future of Shazier? Believe me, this is a story. A big one.

He isn’t retiring, that much seems more than obvious with his words on Nix’s podcast. And if Shazier truly believes — beating pretty tough odds — that he can play again, why would he retire?

He is in the fifth-year option of his contract and the Steelers don’t have much way around Shazier costing them an $8.7 million cap hit. That money is guaranteed, as the CBA doesn’t allow teams to cut such a player. This is particularly an issue for the Steelers, who face an up-against-it proposition as they try to work something out long term with Le’Veon Bell.

If Shazier came to the realization that he could never play again (which I don’t know medically to be the case or not) this would all be so easy for the team. But he either feels like he can, is getting medical advice that it is a possibility or both. As such, the story advances and the Steelers are on the hook for the $8.7 million against the cap for the 2018 season even as it appears highly unlikely he will be on the field.

One way both parties could potentially be happy is to sign Shazier to an extension right now. Does that, on the surface, sound crazy? It sure might to you but it makes the most sense from a business perspective for all parties involved. The way to do it is to give Shazier about $8 million in a signing bonus, in the area of a $1 million guarantee for his first season thereafter and then three non-guarantee years in the neighborhood of about $10 million each.

He gets about $9 million guaranteed, the Steelers are able to spread out that signing bonus and with it, the cap hit for this coming season could be lowered by about $5 million. If Shazier never gets back on the field, he gets his money and the Steelers cut him seemingly with everyone on good terms. If he does prove that he can come back, the Steelers have Shazier under non-guarantee (albeit pricey) contract years and could use his services.

Often, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has used the expression “kicking the can down the road” when explaining how restructuring contracts for players for the future could help free up some cap space now.

The Steelers and Shazier should go this route. Because, believe me, the last thing anyone wants in a terrible situation like this is for the Steelers and Shazier to grow into adversaries over the linebacker getting medical clearances to play and/or his true availability to return to football in the future. No one wants it to ever grow into the Steelers’ people and Ryan Shazier’s people potentially going to court and battling over his long-term prognosis. I don’t think the likelihood of that happening is good, but if both sides come to terms on an extension now, it takes it fully out of the mix.

When Shazier made clear on Nix’s podcast he wants to play again, it offered a strong and clear message sent by a player who is oh-so tough and has been through so damn much. It also should have forced the Steelers brass to really think about getting his contract situation squared away right now. ​

 

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