MRIs spell trouble for Big Ben, Pouncey, but it could be worse

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The bad news for the Steelers: MRIs have revealed that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey have high-ankle sprains that have been described as "not good," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has learned.

The good news, if there is some when two of the team's top offensive players go down in the same game: Neither injury was determined to be a Grade 3 sprain -- the most severe kind.

The Steelers, coming off a 14-3 victory Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns and with 10 days until they visit San Francisco for their next game, will have to wait and see how the injuries progress before making determinations on their playing status against the 49ers.

Ryan Tollner, Roethlisberger's agent, said in a text message Friday that his client is wearing a boot and "will need rest."

Roethlisberger was injured Thursday night in the second quarter of the Steelers' 14-3 victory, but returned to start the second half and finished the game.

Pouncey never returned after he was injured in the second quarter.

High-ankle sprains typically sideline players for two to three weeks, depending on their severity. But that is not always the case.

Doctors always have maintained that players who have a second high-ankle sprain heal faster and return quicker than players who have suffered one for the first time.

Last year, for example, offensive tackle Flozell Adams had a high-ankle sprain that forced him from a game, but he returned to play the following week because it was not the first time his ankle had that type of injury.

Roethlisberger said this is the first one for him.

"I've never had a high-ankle sprain before, so I don't know what to expect," he said after the game. "But it feels like my ankle is about to explode. I'm ready to get off of it."

The Steelers think it might be harder for Pouncey to play against the 49ers because he needs his ankle for leverage in run-blocking and pass protection. Pouncey injured his left ankle against the Browns, and it is the same one he injured in the AFC championship game that kept him out of Super Bowl XLV.

Pouncey said after the game Thursday night that he will play in San Francisco. Of course, he said much the same thing before the Super Bowl, too, even though the Steelers knew all along he wasn't going to play.

Roethlisberger's ankle is less essential to his performance than Pouncey's. Against the Browns, he appeared to have more trouble reaching for handoffs than he did dropping back to pass and throwing. He passed for 178 yards and a touchdown after he returned and had another touchdown pass to Mike Wallace overturned by replay.

"It was hard to reach out to the guys," Roethlisberger said. "I abandoned all my rules and techniques. I am supposed to reverse out on some. I said, I don't care, I'm just going to get you guys the ball. That's what I had to do."

Roethlisberger got the high-ankle sprain in the second quarter when he was sacked by Browns defensive tackle Scott Paxson, a former Steelers reserve. He surprised many teammates when he came back on the field for the start of the second half and finished the game.

"You have to take him off the field on a stretcher to get him not to play," said backup quarterback Charlie Batch.

"I told him I'm happy to be his teammate," said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger before he was injured. "He's a warrior in every sense."

Even a wounded warrior.

Gerry Dulac: and Twitter @gerrydulac. First Published December 10, 2011 5:00 AM


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