PITTSBURGH (AP) Ryan Shazier's locker remained intact in a corner of the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room on Wednesday except for one small piece: his No. 50 yellow practice jersey, which found its way into his hands and over his shoulders of a good friend and internal inner linebacker Vince Williams.
While Williams and the rest of Shazier's teammates tried to take care of the matter of preparing for the Baltimore visit on Sunday night that could secure the third title of the AFC North of Pittsburgh in four years, Shazier spent the day being transported from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh to undergo further tests for a spinal injury that left his future cloudy and his teammates shaken.
"I think it's weird without 50 here," rookie linebacker out TJ Said Watt. "He is the heart and soul of this defense, he is the field marshal, it's different not to have him here at meetings and practices, it's strange."
Pittsburgh signed Sean Spence, who spent three seasons with the Steelers after being taken in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, to fill Shazier's spot on the list.  Tyler Matakevich could start in Shazier's position against the Ravens if his aching left shoulder comes in time.
However, the gap left by the implacably optimistic and charismatic Shazier both on the field and outside will be more difficult to replace. Maybe impossible And Shazier's teammates know it.
While they were inundating him with text messages and phone calls and trying to stay positive, the site of one of the league's top linebackers on a stretcher, his legs immobile after a routine hit, served as a jarring reminder of his own soccer mortality.
"It simply brings back to reality how dangerous sport really is," said linebacker Arthur Moats. "A lot of times, especially with injuries like that, people get … you get something like," Oh, we see it all the time, guys hit each other all the time, guys get hurt all the time, but they do not It's nothing crazy "When you see a guy fall like that, he puts it in perspective as" Oh, yes, it's real life ".
Safety Mike Mitchell was 20 feet away when Shazier went down head to hit the Cincinnati wide receiver Josh Malone in the back Shazier bounced and turned around, pointing to the lower back with obvious pain, his legs awkwardly extended.
"That's my brother "Mitchell said." When we went out, that was one of the things that really shook me a little because Shay is as hard as nails. When I looked at it, I had tears in my eyes. I could see clearly that he was really scared. "
The Steelers seemed to spend the rest of the first half stunned before joining to win Chris Boswell's field goal at the last second, and remain cautiously optimistic about Shazier's prediction and also a little powerless, all they can do is sit down and wait and play.
"You understand that the only way to do your job and help with your recovery is to make sure that we go out and execute it, without having to bear that burden . from `Dang, the team is fighting. The team is doing it wrong. I have to hurry and get back, "Moats said." I feel if we continue to succeed, that will make it a little easier for him. "
Trying to divide your work into compartments with concern for your friend is not easy, especially when it is not clear if Shazier will be able to walk again, much less continue a race that seemed to be on the verge of stardom until the moment his helmet hit Malone's back.
However, for the Steelers they know this It's what they signed up for, Shazier included, if he can not be with them, the best they can do is honor him with his game.
"It stinks the injury that happened," defensive end Cam Heyward said. We let the air out of the building for a while, but we understand that we have to keep playing.
"We know it's not easy, he was an integral part of our defense and our team, we keep him in our prayers, keep in touch with him and then try to focus on football."
NOTES: TE Vance McDonald (ankle) and Mitchell (ankle) practiced on Wednesday. … CB Joe Haden (fractured leg) and Matakevich (shoulder) no.
For more coverage of the NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL