Not since Week 13 of 2017 has Ryan Shazier played linebacker for Pittsburgh, but he's still very much been a Steeler every week after and general manager Kevin Colbert doesn't see that changing.
"When you're dealing with Ryan Shazier, you're not dealing with a timetable," Colbert told reporters on Thursday via Triblive.com. "You're dealing with a young man who is trying to regain his career. We'll always support that, whether it's by a certain date or certain terms. There's rules we have to live by, but there's no ceiling and there's no time frame on the possibility of his returning."
In March of 2019, the Steelers announced Shazier's contract would be tolled into the 2019 season with the linebacker staying on the roster before his eventual placement on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Shazier sustained a spinal contusion due to a head-on tackle on Dec. 4, 2017 that required spinal stabilization surgery. Tolling Shazier meant Pittsburgh paid the linebacker for the season and also enabled him to receiver his regular medical insurance and count the season toward his players' pension.
There has been no indication Shazier will return in 2020 and "it's a unique situation," Colbert admitted.
In January, team president Art Rooney said Shazier's contract from 2019 will not toll even though he spent a second consecutive season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, but wanted to work out something to keep him on.
More recently, Colbert didn't delve into Shazier's contract situation, but should it expire, Shazier would become a free agent in March.
"Ryan is still technically on the roster," Colbert said. "That's something that Ryan, myself, coach [Mike] Tomlin and Art Rooney will continue to discuss as he moves forward."
While Shazier's future as a Steeler doesn't appear to immediately affect the product on the field, it's clear that it's a significant situation within the franchise. In that regard, Colbert, like the rest of the world, has seen a riveting comeback story as Shazier has gone from a return to walking in April of 2018 to the point of posting workouts of his continued improvement.
"It was significant improvement," Colbert said. "We're never going to take that away from Ryan. We have always told him we'll never put a ceiling on it. When Ryan becomes healthy enough to play this game, which is his goal, we'll make that decision and he'll make that decision at that point, and we'll respect it either way it goes."
Having played four seasons with the Steelers, Shazier earned two Pro Bowl selections -- including in the fateful 2017 campaign in which he was on pace for his finest season yet. His comeback story has been an inspirational one thus far and it's clear the Steelers are monitoring it closely and treating it as the special circumstance it indeed is.