Ryan Shazier: Ben Roethlisberger is Losing What Made Him ‘Big Ben’

Getty Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Shazier walk off the field at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had a great run. But it’s time to call it a career.

Ryan Shazier, who played four seasons with the future Hall of Famer, knows his former teammate’s days are numbered and Roethlisberger should just let the game talk to him.

“I’m a big Big Ben fan, he’s a friend of mine, and I always want to see him succeed,” Shazier prefaced on CBS Radio December 1 edition of Tiki and Tierney.

BUT…

“Sometimes the game tells you when it’s time. Everybody wants to play into their Tom Brady days…,” Shazier said. “I love Ben, but I think next year may be time for him to step away from the game.”

Shazier noted that what made “Big Ben” Big Ben was that he was nearly impossible for defenders to take down. This trait, combined with a powerful arm, allowed Roethlisberger’s targets time to get open for big plays downfield.

Roethlisberger, who will turn 40 in March, isn’t physically capable of having that kind of impact on the game anymore. “He knew how to change the game, and I feel like he’s losing a lot of that,” said Shazier. “When you can’t play the way that you want to play, it gets tough.”

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Play It Again, Ryan

Nearly four years ago, on December 4, 2017, Shazier’s football career ended abruptly on a routine play versus the Bengals when he suffered a devastating spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.

Despite the doctors’ giving him only a 20 percent chance of ever walking again, Shazier worked tirelessly for years to return to the game he loved. Shazier said that his doctors believed it was possible — but not being able to play how he wanted was part of why he decided against it.

The NFL is not very forgiving — when you’re great, they love you, but when you’re not, they don’t. And Shazier knew he wouldn’t be able to play at the level he was known for pre-injury.

An All-Pro linebacker, Shazier was a force to be reckoned with. Per Pro Football Reference, he amassed 299 tackles (24 for loss), 18 quarterback hits and 7.0 sacks as part of the feared Pittsburgh Steelers defense. He also contributed 25 defended passes, seven forced fumbles, three recoveries and seven interceptions.

“I knew how good I was when I playing,” Shazier said. “I knew some of the struggles I was still having, and I didn’t want to go out there and be a different guy on the field. Everybody would’ve wanted me back, but everybody would’ve wanted me back to be where I was at. They would’ve wanted me to be the Ryan Shazier I once was. If I couldn’t do all those things the same way I was able to do them, I couldn’t handle that. It would not have been the level of play that I wanted it to be.”

Shazier documents these thoughts and more in his new book “Walking Miracle.”

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