Having been sacked 26 times, Ben Roethlisberger is used to being stretched out, and that can come in handy on his off days, too.
Yesterday was one of those days for Steelers players, which meant another instance in which Roethlisberger had to assume the supine position for his most recent MRI. Roethlisberger does not officially lead the league in anything, but unofficial number of MRI scans might be one category where he does.
He had another, on his right shoulder again, the one that was slightly separated in the season opener. He then reported to lunch in the Steelers' cafeteria, no abnormalities nor arm slings readily visible. Coach Mike Tomlin said at his noon news conference that he would have news on it later, but did not promise to make it public and then followed through by revealing nothing the rest of the day.
Tomlin, however, did say something revealing at his news conference, and it had nothing to do with Roethlisberger's injured right shoulder.
The coach has mentioned several times over the course of this season that part of the reason Roethlisberger is sacked so many times is the quarterback holds onto the ball longer than most, looking to make a play. Tomlin has said you must take the good with the bad.
Yesterday, he was asked if backup Byron Leftwich, who played so well in the second half of the Steelers' 23-6 victory Monday night in Washington, does a better job of getting the ball out on time.
"He probably did do a better job of getting the ball out, and, no, it did not surprise me," Tomlin answered. "That is one of the characteristics of Byron Leftwich. He got the ball out pretty good in Jacksonville and the different places he has been. That's who he is. He is a quick decision-maker. He is an anticipatory thrower."
Leftwich replaced Roethlisberger to start the second half against the Redskins and turned a 10-6 halftime lead into a nifty victory by completing 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards, one touchdown pass, two touchdown drives and a 145.8 passer rating. This, after Roethlisberger completed 5 of 17 for 50 yards, one interception and a 15.1 passer rating -- the lowest of his NFL career.
While his team has flourished with the second-best record in the AFC at 6-2 at the halfway point of the season, it has been up and down for Roethlisberger. After having his best statistical season in 2007, he is back to 2006 form with eight interceptions vs. 10 touchdown passes, a 79.6 passer rating and those 26 sacks which put him on pace to erase Cliff Stoudt's 1983 team record of 51.
Tomlin confirmed yesterday that Roethlisberger's right shoulder was re-injured on his quarterback sneak for a 1-yard touchdown late in the first half Monday.
He also acknowledged for the first time that Roethlisberger's right shoulder had not fully healed since Houston's Mario Williams first wrenched it on a sack and forced fumble in the opener.
"I'm sure his shoulder has affected him," Tomlin said. "How much has it affected him, I do not know. "It really is kind of irrelevant. We don't look for or seek excuses. We don't make them, whether we are talking about Ben or someone else or our team in general. Things like bumps and bruises and injuries are part of this game. When we deem people healthy enough to play, then their play speaks for itself. That's how we approach it."
Tomlin said he will determine whether to rest Roethlisberger or play him Sunday against Indianapolis based on "the information that I get from my medical personnel and how he is feeling."
It's possible the aching right shoulder has hindered Roethlisberger's performance this season, although, at times, his play and his throws have been brilliant. No matter what the MRI showed yesterday, Tomlin could decide it's time to give that shoulder a rest.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published November 5, 2008 5:00 AM