Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin both tried to clear the air some on Tuesday about what led to the signal-caller not reentering Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Raiders until roughly five minutes left in the game and with the team trailing after being checked out at halftime and into the the third quarter for a rib injury. According to both, an antiquated x-ray machine played a role in the decision to hold the quarterback out and extended amount of time and only use him as an emergency option late in the contest.
Roethlisberger was up first Tuesday morning and first described what all transpired at halftime during his weekly interview on 93.7 The Fan.
“Well, at halftime, Dr. Bradley and I, we went off a little early and we went to x-ray because he wanted to get x-rays of my ribs,” Roethlisberger said. “And so, we had to find the x-ray room, first, and in that old stadium it wasn’t easy to do. And then once we got there we had to wait for the technician to come in. And so we did a few ex-rays and then we went back to our locker room and by the time we got back to our locker room the team was already on the field. That’s how long it took to get an x-ray.’
Roethlisberger was then asked if he had been medically cleared to return to the game once he returned to the field from the locker room roughly midway through the third quarter.
“Well, when we were in the locker room at halftime the X-rays that doc got, he couldn’t tell anything,” Roethlisberger explained. “The x-ray machine was really old and so the X-rays were inconclusive. So doc basically was like, ‘Ben, it could be one of like three or four things, I’m not sure what it is.’ And I said, ‘Well, can you get me back in the game?’ And he goes, ‘I can do that.’ And at that time it was just Dr. Bradley, myself and Kevin Colbert. So, Kevin Colbert was communicating with us and kind of telling us what he thought, probably speaking kind of on behalf of the team, or whatever you want to say. And so I got some medicine and by the time I even got dressed, Josh’s first series was done and their first series was done, before I even got my shoulder pads back on.
“And in my opinion, I’m not staying. I had no idea, We still at this time don’t know what the injury is, right? We don’t know if I can throw, if I can play can I move, can I protect myself? If I take the field, am I going to make our team worse? You know, we’ve talked on this show before, you want to play unless you think you’re going to hurt the team, right? You don’t really just go out there just to be out there.”
Roethlisberger went on to say that the decision was made to treat things like the team did several tears ago when he suffered a shoulder injury against the Cincinnati Bengals during a playoff game.
“No intention in that Cincinnati game of getting back on the field but wanted to be out there with my guys,” Roethlisberger said. “And so at this point we didn’t know if I was going to get on the field or not, but I wanted it to be out there. And Kevin kind of made the comment like, ‘Let’s let our defense hold them. Josh can get this thing done, but let’s get out there.’ And I said, ‘I agree.’ So we got back out on the field and they were in the middle of a drive, we were, and so I was just out there. I’m kind of trying to get loose, keep my legs loose, and really just being out there in an emergency situation, or to be there for Josh to help support him and answer questions for him. And that kind of was the approach we took when we came back, that’s the reason we came back onto the field now.”
Roethlisberger was then asked to address Tomlin saying after Sundays loss that the quarterback Could have probably returned to the game a series or so earlier than he actually did.
“When I came back on the field, obviously I was talking with coach Randy, talking with Coach T and the team kind of said, and I say the team; it’s Colbert, it’s everybody – was kind of like, let’s let this thing play out because I think it was still the unknown of the injury. I think what they were probably worried about making it worse, right? Because we didn’t know what the injury was. And so if you go on the field and you make it worse, could you be lost in season? Who really knows. I think it’s the unknown. And so when I told Coach, he asked how I was doing, I said, ‘I’m all right, I’ll give you everything I got.’ And he said, ‘Let’s wait and see kind of how this thing plays out.’ And I think that was the decision of the team because at that time that drive Josh, they were kind of driving.”
Roethlisberger then proceeded to say that he and Tomlin stayed in communication after he had returned from the locker room and then attempted to explain what led to the decision being made to out him back into the game.
“I don’t remember the exact specific play, but Coach and I we’re having communications and I was just trying to stay loose. I threw a couple of times and told him that I’ll go if you need me to. And then at some point, it was either our last drive or when they had the ball, not on their last drive, but the drive before I went in, I don’t remember specifically, I don’t remember the exact words, but a Coach kind of said, ‘Hey, I’m going to put you in,’ or ‘Let’s go after this series regardless of what happens.’ Regardless if they score or anything, I was going to give it a shot to go back in because he just felt like it was time to try and give us a spark. Whatever it is, you have to ask him, but then they ended up going down and scoring, of course, and it looks like I came in just because they scored. But I think coaches plan the whole time was for me to come in the next series, anyway.”
Tomlin gave a very similar recap as Roethlisberger gave during his Tuesday press conference.
“We never really fully had a complete understanding of specifically what the injury was at the stadium site,” Tomlin said. “Nevertheless, our medical staff doing their due diligence, treated him to the best of their abilities and medicated him and then we took the group back out onto the field not knowing whether he was going to be available or not. We’ve been in this situation before, obviously Ben has been our quarterback for a long time.
“Really, we followed a very similar template that transpired in Cincinnati in the playoffs, I think in 2015. Because of the lack of information, we thought that the best thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, would to be only to make Ben available in an emergency-like situation. Was exactly what we did in Cincinnati several years ago, because of lack of information. Obviously, he’s got to be a willing participant in that, the doctors have got to get to a level of comfort. But acknowledging that level of comfort is including a lack of clarity in some instances because the x ray was not clearly readable.”