Big Ben may take knee vs. Packers if too sore
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger's right knee injury apparently isn't serious, but Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher wasn't ready to say if his quarterback will be ready to play Sunday in Green Bay.
Roethlisberger underwent an MRI exam Tuesday, about 12 hours after the Steelers' 20-19 victory over Baltimore, and was given a preliminary diagnosis of a strained posterior capsule. The injury affects the range of motion of the knee and can be very painful.
"All ligaments are fine, and we'll get a further update as the week goes on," Cowher said Tuesday. "There's nothing serious coming out of the game as we speak. ... Hopefully it's something he can continue to work through, and we'll rest him when we can and see where he is at the end of the week."
The Steelers have a short week of practice before their first trip to Green Bay (1-6) in 10 years, but it is unlikely Roethlisberger will attempt to practice Wednesday. The Steelers (5-2) normally want a player to practice at least once by Friday in order to play Sunday.
Cowher did not specify Roethlisberger's status, either probable, questionable or doubtful, and is not required to do so until Wednesday.
Roethlisberger, 18-1 as an NFL regular season starter, suffered a knee injuyr for the second time in four weeks in a Monday night game as he caught a cleat in the turf while being hit during the first quarter. Despite limping for several plays after being hit, Roethlisberger stayed in the game and led two touchdown drives and a fourth quarter drive that resulted in Jeff Reed's decisive 37-yard field goal with 1:36 remaining.
Cowher said the injury affected Roethlisberger's throwing and mobility, even though the second-year starter went 18-of-30 for 177 yards and two touchdowns to rookie tight end Heath Miller.
"Sure it had some effect and no question he was hurting, but he gutted it out," Cowher said. "He told me at halftime he was getting it taped up and that 'I'm going to give it a shot, but if I'm hurting this team, I'm going to take myself out.' "
Roethlisberger started the second half by leading a 10-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in his second scoring pass to Miller, an 8-yarder that put the Steelers up 17-10. Pittsburgh didn't score again until its final 60-yard drive that ended with Reed's second field goal of the game, and his second game-winner in four games.
Cowher isn't surprised Roethlisberger remained effective despite the painful knee injury. Roethlisberger's 112.4 passer rating is the best in the league, and only he and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer have ratings above 100.0.
"He's a very poised quarterback and he has a feel for the game," Cowher said. "He's a very competitive, confident individual, and you never sense him overreacting. He's like the guy in basketball who wants the ball in his hands at end of the game, he has those attributes.
"He's a tough guy, and I have a lot of respect for Ben. He knew the risks involved with going back out there," Cowher said.
Roethlisberger had injured his left knee late in a 24-22 victory in San Diego on Oct. 10, sustaining a hypertension that caused him to sit out the following week's 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville. His replacement, Tommy Maddox, had four turnovers in that loss, two in overtime, including an interception that was returned for the game-winning touchdown.
Cowher played Maddox even though Roethlisberger all but begged Cowher to play him, pleading his case up until the final hours before the game.
Maddox, the Steelers' starter for most of the 2002 season and in 2003, has since fallen to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Charlie Batch, and it seems likely Batch would start in Green Bay should Roethlisberger have a setback and not be ready.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press