Big Ben, Antonio Brown appear to be a go for Denver
January 10, 2016 11:54 PM
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger waves to the fans after beating the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Bengals' Vontaze Burfict takes down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card game.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict knocked the Steelers’ two biggest offensive stars out of the game before he helped send them into the next round of the AFC playoffs.
But both of those players — quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown — have a chance to be ready Sunday for a divisional-round playoff game at Denver.
Roethlisberger’s injured right shoulder is “sore,” but he said there apparently is no ligament damage and is “day to day” for the top-seeded Broncos.
Speaking briefly as he walked through the locker room Sunday at the Steelers practice facility, Roethlisberger said he had a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his throwing shoulder after he was injured on a sack by Burfict on the final play of the third quarter. Roethlisberger, though, said he was not sure the extent of the injury.
Despite the injury, Roethlisberger returned for the final series and led the Steelers on their improbable winning field-goal drive, completing 5 of 8 passes for 40 yards. Roethlisberger told the coaches he could barely throw the ball longer than 10 yards.
“Coach [Todd Haley] called one deep one in there and, obviously, he had to because time was running out,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “So I went over to the sideline and said, ‘Coach you can’t do that anymore, I can’t throw it that far.’ We knew we had to work our way down the field.”
Also, All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who was put in concussion protocol after a hit to the helmet by Burfict following an incomplete pass, is said to be fine and should be able to play against the Broncos.
Meantime, linebacker James Harrison, who played with Burfict for one season in Cincinnati, said the Bengals inside linebacker has been known to play out of control and deserved a penalty for his hit on Brown that helped cost the Bengals a playoff victory.
“I would be surprised if anyone did that, just for the simple fact you have to keep a cool head and realize that’s going to hurt the team,” Harrison said.
But none of the Steelers were surprised it was Burfict, who, according to several players, even spit on one of the offensive linemen after a play in the second half.
“There are times where he’s out of control, but there are times where he’s out of control but he’s calculated with it,” said Harrison, who played with Burfict in the 2013 season and has been penalized several times by the NFL for what have deemed illegal hits. “There’s a fine line.”
Chris Boswell’s winning field goal from 35 yards was set up when Burfict hit Brown in the helmet with his shoulder and forearm after an incomplete pass from the Bengals 47, drawing a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. While Brown was being helped from the field, cornerback Adam Jones was given a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for an incident with Steelers linebacker coach Joey Porter, who was on the field.
The back-to-back penalties moved the ball to the Bengals 17, allowing Boswell to convert the winning kick.
Harrison said he didn’t see Burfict’s hit until after the game on television, but, without hesitation, said, “It’s a penalty.”
There are two other injury updates from the game:
• Fullback/tight end Will Johnson has a grade-2 hamstring pull in his left leg. He took an injection Sunday and is hopeful to play against the Broncos. Johnson is the only remaining fullback on the 53-man roster.
• Safety Robert Golden (shoulder sprain) had his arm in a sling, but said he is going to play in Denver. He said he hurt it on special teams late in the fourth quarter.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com or Twitter @gerrydulac.
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