PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger left Heinz Field on Monday night with his sprained right shoulder in a sling. When he walks back in ready to play is anybody’s guess.
Coach Mike Tomlin called Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback “questionable” but otherwise offered little detail Tuesday less than 24 hours after Roethlisberger was pounded into the ground by Kansas City linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s 16-13 overtime win.
“He is being evaluated,” Tomlin said. “Obviously this injury puts his participation in the questionable category for this week.”
Roethlisberger left the game and went to the hospital for an MRI exam. He underwent more tests Tuesday to determine the severity of the sprain to the sternoclavicular (SC) joint in his throwing shoulder.
The SC joint connects the collarbone to the sternum. Treatment can range from a few days of rest and ice to as much as 4 to 6 weeks, according to Dr. Victor Khabie, chief of sports medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
“You could tape it, you could do that stuff, but the reality is those ligaments just have to heal,” Khabie said. “If you go throwing, you slow down the healing process.”
Roethlisberger was scrambling in the pocket to buy time on Pittsburgh’s first possession of the second half when Houston wrapped up Roethlisberger’s legs and Hali slammed into him, driving the quarterback’s right side into the damp Heinz Field turf. Roethlisberger didn’t appear to be hurt walking off the field but quickly made his way to the locker room before leaving the stadium with the game still in progress.
“It didn’t seem like a tough hit but he came to the sideline and next thing you know he was gone,” Pittsburgh left tackle Max Starks said. “I’m hoping it was nothing serious. Honestly, it didn’t seem like it.”
If Roethlisberger can’t play, the Steelers (6-3) will turn to veteran backup Byron Leftwich, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards as Pittsburgh won its fourth straight game thanks to Shaun Suisham’s 23-yard field goal 51 seconds into overtime.
The 32-year-old Leftwich hasn’t started a game since 2009, when he went 0-3 for Tampa Bay. His last victory came on Oct. 8, 2006 when the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the New York Jets, 41-0.
The former first-round pick has spent most of the last six years as a backup while dealing with a series of significant injuries. He missed all of last season after breaking his arm in a preseason game and threw seven regular-season passes in 2010 after hurting his knee at the end of training camp.
Though there was a bit of rust after getting pressed into service, Leftwich did guide the Steelers to a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.
“I try to prepare as if I am the starter every week,” Leftwich said. “Nothing will change. I wish Ben the best. I hope he is healthy. Other than that I will be ready to go.”
Roethlisberger isn’t the only big name that could be out Sunday. Safety Troy Polamalu continues to be plagued by a right calf injury and Tomlin described him as “doubtful” to play against the Ravens. Safety Ryan Clark sustained a concussion for the second time in three games, though Tomlin said it appears Clark is fine.
BILLS: Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson questions why a more experienced player wasn’t targeted on the final offensive snap in a loss at New England.
And Johnson said rookie receiver T.J. Graham shouldn’t be faulted for running the wrong route that led to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick having his pass intercepted by Devin McCourty in the end zone with 23 seconds left of a 37-31 loss.
Johnson said Graham wound up running a play he had never attempted in practice. Graham had been the intended receiver but ran behind McCourty rather than in front of him.
Johnson said one of the team’s more experienced receivers should have run the route.
FALCONS: Atlanta placed tight end Tommy Gallarda on injured reserve, and signed wide receiver Tim Toone and tight end Chase Coffman.
BRONCOS: Denver waived safety Duke Ihenacho, opening a roster spot that could be filled by linebacker D.J. Williams, who was reinstated Monday after sitting out the first nine games of the season while serving two separate NFL suspensions.
BUCCANEERS: Linebacker Quincy Black will miss the remainder of the season after injuring his neck making a tackle.
BEARS: Chicago signed veteran backup quarterback Josh McCown with Jay Cutler’s status for this week uncertain.
Cutler sat out the second half of Sunday’s loss to Houston with a concussion. Jason Campbell took over and is expected to start Monday at San Francisco if Cutler can’t go.