PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger likes to point out that he’s played through the end of every contract he’s ever signed. It’s tangible proof of the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback’s commitment both to the game itself and the franchise he’s led to a pair of Super Bowl titles.

That commitment will be tested over the coming months.

The 37-year-old’s aching right elbow needs surgery. His 16th season is over, just two weeks in. His future is uncertain. And the keys to the offense Roethlisberger operated so deftly for so long are now in the hands of backup Mason Rudolph, who was in elementary school when the player known universally as Big Ben became a full-fledged NFL starter in the fall of 2004.

It’s an arrangement Roethlisberger stressed is temporary.

“This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people,” Roethlisberger said in a statement Monday after being placed on injured reserve. “I can only trust God’s plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season.”

The end of this season arrived suddenly. The Steelers were moving down the field late in the second quarter against Seattle on Sunday when Roethlisberger twice clutched his elbow following pass attempts. Though he stayed in for the remainder of the drive – including a pair of completions with his arm in obvious pain – he watched the second half from the sideline as Pittsburgh lost 28-26 to drop to 0-2.

Enter Rudolph, taken in the third round in the 2018 draft, who beat out Josh Dobbs for the backup job during the preseason. Now, the 24-year-old is tasked with helping the Steelers emerge from an early hole without their unquestioned leader.

“It’s kind of sucky circumstance with our leader and good friend going down,” Rudolph said. “He would want me to step up and lead to the best of my ability. That’s what I’ve always believed in and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Roethlisberger underwent an MRI late Sunday. While the nature of his injury hasn’t been disclosed, team doctors decided surgery was the best course of action. Roethlisberger will undergo the procedure later this week. There is no timetable for any possible return.

“It’s really surreal,” guard David DeCastro said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to have a football player mentality, next guy up and move on. But with a guy like that, it’s a little different. Easier said than done, that’s for sure.”

Roethlisberger has been Pittsburgh’s starter since taking over for Tommy Maddox in Week 2 of the 2004 season as a rookie, developing a signature style for his ability to extend plays, a method dubbed “Ben being Ben.” Yet that style evolved over the years as he matured from raw game manager to one of the most prolific passers in league history.

His start on Sunday marked the 218th appearance of his career, second most in the history of a franchise that dates to 1932. He holds the club record in just about every major statistical passing category, including yards (56,545), touchdowns (363), attempts (7,230) and completions (4,651).

A person familiar with the negotiations says Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick has been traded to Pittsburgh for a first-round draft pick in 2020.

Fitzpatrick was unhappy about his role with the Dolphins, and he requested and received permission to seek a trade. He played free safety for Miami in Sunday’s 43-0 loss to New England and had six tackles and a fumble recovery.

Fitzpatrick was the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, but quickly became unhappy after Brian Flores took over as Miami’s coach this year.

SAINTS: Quarterback Drew Brees has been diagnosed with a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand that is expected to sideline him at least six weeks, said a person familiar with the situation.

Brees has elected to have surgery, but it is not yet clear when the operation will take place or who will perform it.

Brees left Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in the first quarter after the thumb on his right hand hit the hand of Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald on the follow-through of a throw.

The Saints lost 27-9, with backup Teddy Bridgewater going 17 of 30 for 165 yards.

Saints Coach Sean Payton declined to go into detail about Brees’ condition or even rule him out for this Sunday’s game in Seattle.

“They’re still in the midst of evaluating it,” said Payton, adding that Brees had received one diagnosis and was in the process of getting a second opinion.

Brees has missed only one start because of an injury in his 14 seasons with New Orleans. He’s the NFL’s all-time leader in completions with 6,621 and yards passing with 74,845. His 522 touchdown passes are tied for second all-time with New England’s Tom Brady, 17 behind Peyton Manning.

COLTS: Adam Vinatieri, the NFL’s career scoring leader, is still the team’s kicker, despite speculation that the 46-year-old might retire.

Vinatieri has missed five of eight kicks in the first two games, including three extra points, matching his single-season career high.

“I know there has been a lot of discussion about Adam. I just want to make this clear – Adam is our kicker,” Coach Frank Reich said. “Like I said yesterday, we have zero concern. He’s not only our kicker, he’s an instrumental leader on our team.”

JAGUARS: A person familiar with the situation says cornerback Jalen Ramsey has requested a trade following his sideline argument with Coach Doug Marrone.

Ramsey’s agent, David Mulugheta, confirmed to ESPN that he asked the Jags to trade the disgruntled Pro Bowler.

CHARGERS: Adrian Phillips will be out for an extended period, dealing another blow to the team’s secondary.

The strong safety broke his right forearm while trying to make a tackle during the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ 13-10 loss Sunday to the Lions. Phillips moved into the starting spot after Derwin James had surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot midway through training camp.

Coach Anthony Lynn said it is likely Phillips will be placed on injured reserve in order to add another defensive back to the roster. Besides James, cornerback Trevor Williams is on IR because of a quad injury.

JETS: The team promoted quarterback Luke Falk from the practice squad to serve as the backup to starter Trevor Siemian on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns.

No. 1 quarterback Sam Darnold is out while recovering from mononucleosis.


BROWNS 23, JETS 3: Nick Chubb rushed for a touchdown, and Odell Beckham turned a short pass into an 89-yard touchdown as Cleveland (1-1) won at East Rutherford, N.J.

The Jets (0-2) lost another quarterback when Trevor Siemian, starting in place of Sam Darnold, was hit by Cleveland’s Myles Garrett and sustained an ankle injury.

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