A sense of relief replaced a momentary sense of gloom yesterday after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured in the final practice of Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College.
Roethlisberger's right foot or ankle was injured when 345-pound left tackle Max Starks fell into the back of Roethlisberger's leg while trying to block linebacker James Harrison on a pass play during an 11-on-11 drill in the final half-hour of practice in Latrobe.
Asked after practice if Roethlisberger would be all right, coach Mike Tomlin told the Post-Gazette, "Yup."
Several of Roethlisberger's teammates concurred, including backup quarterback Charlie Batch, who said, "It didn't appear to be bad, so we'll see what happens."
Even Roethlisberger indicated he was OK.
Twenty minutes after ice was placed on his right ankle, it was removed by trainer John Norwig. Roethlisberger pulled his right shoe back on and limped to the sideline.
There, team president Art Rooney II asked Roethlisberger how it was. Roethlisberger replied sarcastically, with a slight smile, "Oh, it just feels great. It feels like a car ran over it."
A minute later, someone else asked him how he was. Roethlisberger said, "Oh, I'll be all right."
Roethlisberger finished watching the rest of practice sitting on a Gatorade bucket on the sideline, a white towel draped over his head. When practice ended, he hopped into a cart's passenger seat and was driven off the field without answering questions from reporters.
Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett, after conferring briefly with Tomlin, acknowledged that Roethlisberger's foot was stepped on, but Lockett indicated there would be no more details about the injury.
The injury occurred on the college's new FieldTurf-covered practice field, but no one was blaming the artificial surface for what happened. Normally, afternoon practices are held on a grass field, but rain Wednesday and earlier yesterday prompted Tomlin to hold the final practice on the artificial surface.
Under normal circumstances, the trainers would take a player off the field immediately for treatment and/or tests if they felt the injury was serious.
Starks said he did not see what happened because he was trying to block Harrison. Although it was not a live practice with tackling, the blocking in the line is close to it.
"I'm not sure if I was knocked into him or what happened behind him, but James was engaged in a bull rush with me," Starks said.
He added what everyone in camp was thinking: "You never want your quarterback to be injured."
Batch said he will be ready to start tomorrow night against the Washington Redskins if needed.
"Basically, we have two days to decide," he said. "Whether [Tomlin] clears him, I don't know. I just have to wait to see."
After the injury, trainers attended to Roethlisberger as practice continued. Teammate Brett Keisel and Tomlin came over briefly to take a look as the trainers wrapped Roethlisberger's right foot up to his lower calf. Later, Starks came over and said a few words to his quarterback.