Steelers deny knowledge of QB injury

Updated: February 11, 2009, 3:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have no knowledge that Ben Roethlisberger played the Super Bowl with two broken ribs, as the quarterback told a Web site.

According to SI.com, Roethlisberger said his fractured ribs did not show up on X-rays taken before he led the Steelers to a 27-23 win over Arizona on Feb. 1, but were revealed only during an MRI test he had last week.

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger

"Luckily, in the game, I didn't take any big hits to make 'em hurt," Roethlisberger told SI.com. "But I knew all along there was something wrong. There wouldn't have been anything that could have been done about fractured ribs anyway. It was just suck it up and play."

Roethlisberger did not miss any practices before the Super Bowl, although a pool report from the Wednesday practice said he attempted during the middle of the workout to stretch his torso. He missed one practice during the off week before the Super Bowl because of what the team said was a back injury.

"There's not a whole lot to say," Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said Monday. "Ben was fine to go. He was cleared to play. He didn't miss any [practice] time. There was no doubt he was going to play."

The NFL, in an e-mail to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said the Steelers did not violate the league's injury reporting policy in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.

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"Ben's injury was disclosed in the required injury report the week prior to the team going to Tampa for the Super Bowl," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail, the newspaper reported. "He was listed throughout that week with a back injury."

In the e-mail, Aiello noted that during Super Bowl week, pool reporter Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported that Roethlisberger took full part in practice and "looked sharp."

"There was no doubt as to Ben's availability. Then, of course, he played the entire game," Aiello said, according to the report.

The Steelers said it would have been difficult for Roethlisberger to play any better than he did in leading the decisive 78-yard drive that ended with a precisely thrown 6-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds remaining.

Several plays before, Roethlisberger -- leading his sixth game-winning drive of the season -- hit Holmes on a 40-yard completion.

Roethlisberger did not mention any possible injury during postgame interviews.

It is uncertain if the validity of Roethlisberger's claim will be proved.

NFL teams do not routinely require players to undergo MRIs or other medical tests during the offseason, and Roethlisberger isn't due back in Pittsburgh until offseason workouts begin in April. By then, any problem that occurred before or during the Super Bowl might not show up in tests.

Roethlisberger has previously exaggerated or misstated injuries he supposedly suffered during his five-season career.

The day after the January 2005 AFC Championship Game, Roethlisberger said he broke two toes during the 41-27 loss to New England. Coach Bill Cowher emphatically denied that, saying the quarterback merely aggravated a toe injury from college. Roethlisberger never brought up the issue again.

Roethlisberger also said during training camp in 2006 that he played the Steelers' Super Bowl-winning season of 2005 with a broken thumb. Roethlisberger missed no playing time after supposedly being hurt on Nov. 28, 2005, in Indianapolis, and the team never revealed any such injury.

After Cowher resigned following the 2006 season, Roethlisberger acknowledged he and the coach didn't always get along -- in part, apparently, because Cowher felt the quarterback exaggerated the extent of injuries.

It also was reported that Roethlisberger sustained a spinal cord concussion against Cleveland on Dec. 28, but the team said only that he had a concussion.

"Ben's health is often the subject of inaccurate reports," coach Mike Tomlin said before the Super Bowl. "He's fine."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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