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doesn't comment on walking,Dad says Ryan Shazier has feeling in his legs
There is some good news on the Ryan Shazier injury front, as the father of the Steelers linebacker revealed in an interview with Channel 11 in Pittsburgh that his son is still in an "intense struggle" during his recovery,Womens Solomon Thomas Jersey, but that he is starting to show positive signs physically and that his "spirit is high."

Asked by Lisa Sylvester of Channel 11, Vernon Shazier said his son is "doing good" but still battling through the recovery from an injury that left him laying motionless on the field during a game against the Bengals back in early December. 

"He's doing good. It's a struggle. It's an intense struggle," Shazier said. "He's doing good. He's staying positive,Womens Reuben Foster Jersey, his spirit is high. He's living and trusting in God."

During the game, Shazier lowered his head to make a fairly innocuous tackle, but it appeared his neck and spine compressed on the hit and he immediately reached for his back. The Steelers linebacker lay on the field for several minutes -- it was clearly a terrifying situation even at the time -- before being transported to the hospital.

During and after the game, the Steelers were cautiously optimistic about Shazier's status,Womens Ahkello Witherspoon Jersey, who has been spotted at team events but who has not been seen actually walking, but he would eventually require spinal stabilization surgery. The good news is that Shazier, was able to feel his legs some before the surgery and can feel them now, according to his father.

"Yeah,Authentic Joe Williams Jersey," Vernon Shazier said. "Um, he can feel them now, no, no he could feel them a little bit before [the surgery] too. It's just initially ... but he can feel them now."

The bigger question for many will be,Womens Pierre Garcon Jersey, is Shazier walking yet? His father declined to say, which is telling in its own.

"I don't want to go into a whole lot of this," Shazier's father said. "We've agreed to keep his progress private, how's he doing ... he's much better, until he's ready to share where he's at."

The Steelers ended Shazier's season about a week after the injury, no surprise given the serious nature. There was more concern about Shazier being able to walk again than Shazier being able to play football again.

Shazier did begin rehab two weeks after the injury, and has had some positive moments, however, including celebrating his team's victory over the Ravens on a Sunday night via FaceTime.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was not a nominee for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award. By now, that is a fact that most Pittsburgh Steelers fans are aware of. In a sense, the voters were right. Smith-Schuster shouldn't have just been a nominee for the award. He should have won it.

The numbers speak for themselves. Smith-Schuster led all rookies in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He put up those numbers on the biggest stages. His biggest game of the year, a 193-yard explosion, were it not for an unfortunate call, came on Sunday Night Football. He gained 69 yards on a critical fourth quarter play against the New England Patriots that, would have led to a victory and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. In a game that potentially could have earned the Steelers home field advantage in Week 17, Smith-Schuster returned a kick for a touchdown and gained 269 yards from scrimmage.

"He's making progress daily," Shazier said. "He's a long ways from where he was on that Monday night when he was laying on the field."

Now consider the circumstances of those statistics. That Sunday Night Football game for the ages? It came a week after Martavis Bryant demanded a trade. He was inactive for that game, when the Steelers were without Antonio Brown. Against the Browns in Week 17, and Smith-Schuster stepped up with a weakened roster. He did so again against the Patriots, Smith-Schuster gained those 269 yards without Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell or Brown in the lineup.

This proves two things: first, Bell and Bryant, Smith-Schuster was capable of posting far bigger numbers. If he were on a team without Brown, he might have been among the league's receiver leaders. The second is that he saves his best performances for when they matter most. How many players can say the same, let alone rookies?

Very few, just like very few rookies can say they were at the center of a potential Super Bowl season. But Smith-Schuster was one of the few consistent cogs on a Steelers team that faced more turmoil than any other this season. Bell missed training camp with a holdout. Brown missed the end of the season, and spent some of the beginning of the season throwing temper tantrums on the sideline. Ben Roethlisberger questioned his NFL mortality after a five-interception game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Alejandro Villanueva ignited a controversy when he was the only Steeler to stand for the national anthem against the Chicago Bears.

This Steelers season has been challenging from start to finish. Every week there is some problem that needs to be dealt with, some national controversy that needs to be quelled. And through all of it, some heartbreaking injury to grieve, Smith-Schuster not only played incredible football,Womens C. J. Beathard Jersey, but he actually carried his teammates through those hard times. He choreographed touchdown celebrations. He did fake local news segments and launched city-wide searches for his stolen bike.

Smith-Schuster took a team that easily could have devolved into chaos and in-fighting and made the season fun for them. He was the best teammate on a team that sorely needed that infusion of youth and exuberance. Any rookie can play great football. How many can unify a locker room, can be one of the league's best teammates during a season in which his fellow players needed that most?

That, at its core, including T.J. Watt, is why Smith-Schuster is the rightful rookie of the year. There were plenty of great players in this rookie class,Authentic Reuben Foster Jersey, who didn't get a deserved nomination himself. But no other rookie had the impact on his team's morale that Smith-Schuster did. When you factor in everything he did for the Steelers on and off of the field, it's just impossible to imagine another rookie meaning more to his team.

He's making progress daily," he said. "He's a long way from where he was on Monday night."

On whether Ryan Shazier is walking yet: "I don't want to go into it a whole lot,Authentic Pierre Garcon Jersey," his father said.

The Steelers have not elaborated on the surgery Ryan Shazier underwent,Authentic Ahkello Witherspoon Jersey, or his prognosis. But outside analysts have said if it involved a fusion procedure, full recovery could take up to six months.

Vernon Shazier got emotional when recalling that moment on Dec. 4 when his son called him after the injury.

"He said, pray for me. I can't feel my legs,Authentic C. J. Beathard Jersey, Daddy,'" Vernon Shazier said.

“When your child is laying there in a situation like this, I was hoping and wishing i could switch positions with him."

Ryan Shazier made his first public appearance recently at Heinz Field, attending the Steelers' game against the Patriots.

The last time the Jaguars played at Heinz Field,Womens Joe Williams Jersey, they proved to the Steelers and the rest of the NFL that they were a legitimate NFL playoff team with a dominant 30-9 victory. This time, they'll have to prove it again in Pittsburgh to advance to the AFC championship game.

Jacksonville's defense broke out as "Sacksonville" with that stunning upset of the Steelers in Week 5. The Jaguars pressured Ben Roethlisberger into five interceptions and two sacks, and had the exclamation point of rookie Leonard Fournette closing the rout with a 90-yard touchdown run.

Since then, including their wild-card victory against the Bills on Sunday. But the Week 5 loss was an even bigger turning point for the Steelers,Authentic Garry Gilliam Jersey, the Jaguars are 8-4, who finished the regular season 10-1 after that wake-up call.

The big question for the rematch: Will wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf) be healthy enough to go for the Steelers and give them someone who can break through the Jaguars' tough secondary? His presence will be critical for Big Ben to put that big meltdown against Jacksonville behind him.

Meanwhile, can Blake Bortles and the Jaguars find a lot more offense on the road to support the defense? Here's how Sporting News' NFL experts see Sunday's divisional playoff game playing out:

The Steelers will be in much better shape for the rematch assuming Brown plays. The offensive dysfunction they were going through earlier in the season is gone, thanks to offensive coordinator Todd Haley getting Roethlisberger back into the right balance of feeding Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell. The emergence of rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as a third threat is huge, and has even put Martavis Bryant in more favorable coverage situations.

Roethlisberger needs to get the ball out quickly to avoid the Jaguars' pass rush. Expect Haley to also roll him out to buy time for his targets to get open. Big Ben needs to go away from testing cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye too often. In certain sets, that will make tight end Vance McDonald an X-factor.

Meanwhile, Bortles isn't the same careful QB away from Jacksonville. The Steelers D finished one sack ahead of the Jaguars (56-55) in the regular season to lead the league. If Pittsburgh can contain Fournette early, Bortles will have trouble getting the ball downfield.

It might be tough sledding for Brown and Bell early, but they will overcome a tough assignment to make big plays after the catch and make sure the Steelers get to the AFC championship game.

Five picks. Roethlisberger surely has been reminded of that all season, even as the Steelers were riding high into the playoffs and coming within a controversial replay reversal against the Patriots from being the AFC's No. 1 seed. That five-interception game in October, now sticks out like a sore thumb. The Steelers didn’t lose again until that infamous Patriots game, and that 30-9 shellacking, eight wins later. Still … five picks, and 30-9.

The Jaguars, to be polite, meanwhile, entrenched their defensive credentials further in their wild-card win against the Bills, was pedestrian. That formula has been good enough before, and got away with a performance by their offense that, including against the Steelers, so it’s not unreasonable to assume it could be good enough again.

Brown's health will go a long way toward determining how potent the Steelers offense will be against that Jaguars defense. The Steelers are the better team. Roethlisberger is the better quarterback. A repeat of that early October upset isn’t impossible. But it’s unlikely.

If we've learned one thing about NFL owners over the past few years, it's that they don't waste anytime anymore when it comes to firing a coach. 

Five head coaches were given their pink slips within 24 hours of the end of the regular season, with a sixth deciding to call it a career out in the desert. Will Brinson has all the winners and losers from the first day of the coaching carousel in his Black Monday scorecard.

To keep you up-to-date on the latest firings, rumors and hirings, here's our coaching tracker for the 2018 offseason. 

Although it had been reported since mid-December that Marvin Lewis was done in Cincinnati, it looks like he's going to stay. Lewis and the team have agreed to terms on a new two-year deal that will keep him with the Bengals through the 2019 season. It's somewhat surprising that he's staying, but not totally shocking. Lewis spent the past three weeks claiming that no decision had been made and that was clearly the case here. 

After watching the Bengals close their regular season on a two-game winning streak, who took the same role with Oakland, Lewis showed up to his end-of-season press conference on Monday and sounded like a guy who was very interested in staying. One of his first moves was replacing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, with former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

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