Steelers’ Ryan Shazier Eyeing NFL Return

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has made tremendous strides in his rehabilitation and wants to continue forward in his recovery with an eye on playing football again, owner Art Rooney says (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette). Shazier’s contract is up, so Rooney says the team would probably have to sign him as a player in 2019 in order for him to do that.

When Shazier was carted off of the field in December 2017, doctors feared that he might never walk again. After months of grueling rehab, Shazier is now able to walk with some assistance. All along, the linebacker has been hopeful about returning to the gridiron.

There is no ceiling in Ryan’s recovery. He aggressively approaches it every day,” Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said in March of last year. “We support him in every way possible in that endeavor. Where that leads, only he will know and he will determine further down the road. His approach, his mental approach. I can’t tell you how impressive an inspiration he is to us.”

Last May, the Steelers converted $8.26MM of the linebacker’s 2018 base salary into a signing bonus. The move had no cap implications for the Steelers, but it allowed Shazier to collect on the bulk of his pay for the 2018 season immediately rather than waiting for it in increments throughout the year. It sounds like the Steelers are prepared to do right by him once again as he continues on his inspirational journey.

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Broncos To Hire Mike Munchak

The Broncos have agreed to terms with Mike Munchak to be their new offensive line coach, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). Munchak was the runner-up in their head coaching search before the hiring of Vic Fangio and the club kept in close contact with him as they built out the staff.

The team announced the hire.

Initially, it was believed that Munchak might be a candidate for the offensive coordinator role that was abandoned by Gary Kubiak. Instead, he’s making a lateral move from the Steelers to the Broncos, though he’ll presumably receive a pay bump.

Munchak, 58, has been the Steelers’ offensive line coach since 2014. His contract expired after the 2018 season, so he had no real roadblocks on his way to Denver.

Munchak is widely regarded as one of the league’s best offensive line coaches in the NFL. Under his command, the Steelers’ front five helped transform Le’Veon Bell into a star and vaulted James Conner into the upper echelon of running backs in 2018.

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Latest On Steelers, Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown is unhappy with Steelers brass and coach Mike Tomlin, but the assumption so far has been that the Steelers would not trade the wide receiver. Apparently, things have changed. In an interview with Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette, Steelers president Art Rooney II said it would be “hard to envision” Brown being with the Steelers in training camp this summer. 

There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney said. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.”

With that, it appears that one of the game’s most dangerous offensive weapons could be on the market. It’s likely that every team will have interest in adding Brown, but the cost figures to be sky high. Not only is Brown a superstar player, but trading him would also leave the Steelers saddled with an astronomical cap hit. Even though dissatisfied players are often traded for pennies on the dollar, a Brown trade could call for the forfeiture of two first-round picks, and possibly more.

Even though Rooney is leaving the door open to a possible trade, he’s not slamming the door on a potential reconciliation either.

I’m not going to use those words. All options are on the table. We have two months to go before we can do anything. There’s no sense making the decision now,” Rooney said. “We’ll see how things play out. Maybe he decides to come talk to us some day and we learn more about where he is. We’ll see.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.