When Ryan Shazier suffered his lower back injury last Dec. 4 in Cincinnati, it was one of the toughest situations I've had to cover in nearly three decades as a reporter.
The Steelers were understandably very protective of Shazier's recovery, not permitting reporters to speak to him once he started showing up at the Rooney Sports Complex on a regular basis again. The protection even extended to their own web site, as I watched one day when their PR department chastised a cameraman from Steelers.com for even raising his lens at Shazier in the locker room.
Again, it was all understandable. The injury was so new and nobody really knew what the possibilities of any kind of recovery would be, even his doctors.
I bring this up because Shazier was at Ohio State's spring game Saturday serving as an honorary captain. And, per ESPN.com, he stood without help to cheers from the crowd.
But that's nothing new to us here in Pittsburgh. It's become something of a common sight, particularly at different sporting events, where he has been a regular.
It might be nothing new, but it's not something that should be taken lightly. Shazier's continued recovery from his spinal cord injury has been nothing short of miraculous. It's something that brings a smile to my face every time I see him.
And we all can remain hopeful that Shazier will not only stand without help again someday at Heinz Field, but perhaps suit up and play. That's his main goal, according to several teammates I've spoken to.
Is that realistic? Who cares? It's his goal. And as Arthur Moats told me a while back, if that goal leads to Shazier regaining full use of his legs -- even if he never plays again -- it's a goal with a purpose that helps him along the way as he achieves minor ones.
Shazier's recovery remains a(n amazing) work in progress.
• We'll see what happens with Josh Harrison after being hit in the back of the hand by a 96-mile per hour fastball from Jose Urena in the Pirates' 7-3 win over the Marlins Sunday.
The fact Harrison left the game immediately wasn't a good sign, but the Pirates say they are just being cautious. We'll find out more today.
Harrison is the catalyst for this lineup. He's the guy that makes things happen. While Adam Frazier is a more-than-capable backup, losing Harrison for an extended stretch of time would be a serious blow to this team.
• After stumbling Friday night against the Flyers at home, the Penguins regained momentum with their win in Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.
It's interesting that all three of these games have wound up being blowouts. The Flyers didn't play as poorly as Sunday's 5-1 final score would indicate. The Penguins kind of weathered the storm early on and then took control of the game with their power play.
That power play, which performed at a record pace this season, could definitely be the difference for the Penguins, not just in this series, but moving forward, as well.
As the Flyers have found, taking a penalty against these Penguins is just not a good idea.
• We're a little under two weeks away from the NFL draft and anyone -- including myself -- who tells you they know exactly what the Steelers are going to do is full of it.
The Steelers have played things even closer to the vest than usual this year, to the point that they have only brought in a couple of potential first-round guys, Leighton Vander Esch and Justin Reid, for private visits.
They still have some private visits yet to be done, and maybe the team will tip its hand a little more, but that's not likely.
• The Pirates are midway through the first month of the 2018 season at 11-4, including a 7-2 record on the road.
It's unlikely they're going to continue playing at a .733 pace overall or a .778 pace on the road, but it's a nice start. Unfortunately for them, it won't likely translate into any kind of attendance bump at PNC Park for their three-game series against Colorado that starts today.
Mother Nature apparently isn't a fan of Bob Nutting, either.
• Matt Murray is now 9-1 following a loss in the playoffs in his career. The Penguins should be thankful for that. Sunday's game could have easily been 2-0 or 3-0 early on if Murray hadn't been solid.
That's not to say he was standing on his head. He just made the saves that needed to be made. Many of them were routine saves, but with the Penguins' offensive firepower, that's all you need. Routine saves are called that because they're expected to be made.
If you get into a game where your goalie is required to make a bunch of spectacular saves, you're probably in trouble anyway.
• The Pirates are averaging 5.8 runs per game and Josh Bell has one home run. Bell will hit 30 or more homers this season. This offense is pretty darn potent.
That's one reason I thought the people saying this team was going to lose 100 games were way off base.
• Who's better in an opposing stadium or arena, Sidney Crosby in Philadelphia or Ben Roethlisberger in Cleveland?
Actually, for Roethlisberger, you could make that the entire state of Ohio, since he tortures the Bengals in Cincinnati, as well. But Crosby owns the Flyers in Philly.
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