of doing so.”
By John Perrotto
PITTSBURGH — It often seems as if Ben Roethlisberger is indestructible.
The Steelers quarterback annually either leads the NFL or is close to topping the league in getting sacked. Yet he is always able to bounce back, even when it looks like he has suffered a serious injury.
It happened again Thursday night as the Steelers slogged through an ugly 14-3 victory over the two-touchdown underdog Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger suffered a high left ankle sprain midway through the second quarter but returned at the start of the second half and helped the Steelers improve their record to an AFC-best 10-3 while running their winning streak to four games.
Roethlisberger was sacked by defensive tackle Scott Paxson with 6:08 left in the half and had to be helped to the locker room while backup Charlie Batch took over. The way Roethlisberger gingerly walked off the field, it seemed there was a reasonable chance he was seriously injured or at least done for the game.
Yet Roethlisberger wound up completing 17 of 22 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder to Antonio Brown with 2:52 left that sealed the victory.
“It felt like my ankle had just exploded,” said Roethlisberger, who struggled to walk across the locker room after the game. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of pain in my life. The doctor said I could play with it and I wasn’t going to let my teammates down. It was a 7-3 game against an AFC team. We needed to win this game and I needed to be there for my teammates.”
Roethlisberger will undergo an MRI on Friday to determine the extent of the injury. However, the Steelers don’t play again until Dec. 19, a Monday night game at San Francisco against the NFC West champion 49ers.
“We have a significant number of days between now and our next outing, which should only help the healing process,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Roethlisberger admitted he thought he had broken his leg at the time he was hit but gave no second thoughts to playing once he was given the OK. Tomlin, too, didn’t hesitate in putting Roethlisberger back on the field after Batch threw incomplete on both his passing attempts and also was sacked once.
“The doctors said he was OK to go,” Tomlin said. “He wanted to go. I will always give him an opportunity to show what he is capable of. We know what kind of competitor he is. We know the pain tolerance. We know what he’s capable of,”
Roethlisberger credited his often porous offensive line with keep him intact in the second half.
“I couldn’t really drop back to pass and I couldn’t follow through on my throws very well,” Roethlisberger said. “Our line knew they had to keep those guys off me and they did a great job
of doing so.”
of doing so.”
The MRI will likely determine whether Roethlisberger can play against the 49ers. Chances are he will, though. Even Paxson, the man who sent Roethlisberger out of the game, knows that.
“He’s a warrior, so I wasn’t surprised he came back in,” Paxson said. “Ben’s a fighter.”