Mystery continues to shroud Big Ben's injury

Conflicting descriptions remain, but he is such a quick study that missing practice is not a major hindrance as performance against the Browns Sunday night illustrated

Notes about the injury

• A shoulder separation is not truly an injury to the shoulder joint. The injury actually involves the AC (acromioclavicular joint) -- the point where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the highest point of the shoulder blade.

• The most common cause for a separation is from a fall directly on the shoulder, such as when Houston's Mario Williams, above, sacked Roethlisberger in Week 1. The fall injures the ligaments that surround and stabilize the AC joint.

• A mild shoulder separation -- such as Roethlisberger's reportedly is -- involves a sprain of the AC ligament that does not move the collarbone and looks normal on X-rays.

Mike Tomlin appeared at his weekly news conference yesterday dressed casually. He should have worn blue scrubs or a white smock because he was asked to play doctor instead of Steelers coach. Or, he might have pulled out a magnifying glass because he turned into a private eye halfway through it.

The subject was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his sore right shoulder. That's what Tomlin called it last week and what he called it again yesterday, even though NBC-TV Sunday night made a big deal about Roethlisberger having a separated right shoulder.

"Ben is still nursing the sore shoulder," Tomlin began. "He could be limited here in the first part of the week. Hopefully, he progresses like he did last week. I just met with him, and he said he feels better this week than he did a week ago, which is good."

Roethlisberger did not practice last Wednesday, and he was limited Thursday to handing the ball off in practice. He practiced and threw gingerly on Friday. He played Sunday night in Cleveland and threw at least one pass 60 yards in the air, another 50 or so and completed 12 of 19 for 186 yards and a 113.0 passer rating, boosting his rating to 136.3, which leads the NFL.

But during its broadcast of the game Sunday night, NBC-TV talked about Roethlisberger's "separation" and, after the game, Tomlin was asked about that report.

"They know more than I do," Tomlin said. "That's good television, I guess."

The Post-Gazette confirmed Monday that indeed Roethlisberger has a low-grade separated shoulder, or, more technically, a slight injury to the AC joint, a Type 1 shoulder separation. There are six types of shoulder separations, and the more serious can require surgery. But, basically, Roethlisberger's injury is how Tomlin described it, a sore shoulder. Technically, though, NBC-TV was correct in calling it a separation.

"I have no idea where that report came from," Tomlin said yesterday. "It didn't come from me or my medical staff. If anybody has any information in here about where that report came from, send them to me. I appreciate it. The guy has a sore shoulder."

Tomlin was asked if the information was passed along to NBC-TV staffers at the pregame production meetings.

"Again, I'd like to hear from someone who got that information first-hand. That did not come from me or my medical staff."

He said Roethlisberger did not tell anyone either, and the quarterback refused to talk about his shoulder to NBC-TV on the air after the game Sunday night.

One more time, Tomlin yesterday was asked if it were separated or sore.

"It's an AC sprain," he answered. "It's a sore shoulder."

Tomlin said Roethlisberger does not risk more serious injury to the shoulder by playing. As for how the lack of practice again this week might affect his play Sunday afternoon against the Eagles in Philadelphia, Tomlin said Roethlisberger has an advantage that some quarterbacks do not.

"It really depends on the quarterback," Tomlin said. "Some guys need a lot of snaps to be ready. Some guys can learn visually in the film room and so forth. Some guys need physical reps.

"Thankfully, with Ben, he's a pretty quick study and sharp guy. He can learn in a variety of ways, film study and visual reps. It doesn't take him a great number of reps to be ready to play. At least, that's been my experience with him. I thought he played pretty well the other night. Hopefully, that will be the case again this week. I know it won't be an excuse."

NOTES -- Tomlin said he is not sure who will start at right defensive end in place of Brett Keisel, who will miss between one month and two with a right calf strain. Travis Kirschke has been behind him on the depth chart and replaced him Sunday night, but he has a back issue this week, although Tomlin believes he'll be able to play. Nick Eason and Orpheus Roye are the other possibilities. ... Tomlin hopes to get cornerback Deshea Townsend back this week after he missed the game in Cleveland with a bruised heel. ... Cleveland nose tackle Shaun Rogers hit Roethlisberger late on one play and was not penalized, even though Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley was penalized for hitting quarterback Derek Anderson earlier in the game on a similar play. "They looked very similar to me," Tomlin said. "I don't cry about calls because you can't change them; ask Norv Turner." ... Tomlin had planned to give rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall some carries, but the tenor of the game and Willie Parker's running changed that. "That was the plan, but Willie had that look in his eye," Tomlin said.

Ed Bouchette can be reached at . First Published September 17, 2008 4:00 AM


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