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What They're Saying: Roethlisberger on injury, facing healthier secondary

Posted Jan 14, 2016

Ben Roethlisberger says the Steelers "got lucky" last time facing a Broncos secondary missing T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart.

Roethlisberger 'would rather have an injury anywhere else'

Ben Roethlisberger has been watching football long enough that he knew his crash landing into the turf at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium was bad. As linebacker Vontaze Burfict collided with the scrambling quarterback in the waning moments of the third quarter, Roethlisberger fell backward onto his right shoulder.

"You see so many times quarterbacks or players in general land on that shoulder and something bad happens," he said in a conference call with Denver media on Wednesday. "I just remember trying to twist there a little bit at the end, and as soon as I hit the ground I felt something kind of crunch. It didn’t feel good, so I went right to the trainers and doctors and told them, 'Hey, this didn’t feel good. Let's head in and get it looked at.'"

Roethlisberger would return to help lead the Steelers to a game-winning field goal on the final drive, but playing with a sprained AC joint and torn ligaments in his shoulder is more difficult for a full game than one drive. But he's no stranger to playing through injury, and if he can benefit the team, he expects to play.

"I’ve had a lot of them," Roethlisberger said. "This one is a little different because of where it is. Obviously as a thrower, on your right shoulder, I probably would rather have an injury anywhere else on my body other than my right shoulder."

Later, during local media availability, Roethlisberger mentioned that he had not tried to throw a football since Saturday's game.

Though expectations are that Roethlisberger will be available, he said that he'd leave the decision to play to head coach Mike Tomlin. He'd like to play through his injury, but if he's more of detriment than a benefit, that's a decision for Tomlin.

"I would just be honest with Coach," Roethlisberger said. "He’s obviously going to make the decisions, but I will be honest with him and tell him how I feel. If he doesn’t like what he sees out there then it’s his call."

Steelers prepare for healthier Broncos secondary with Brown on the mend

Sunday's divisional-round battle offers a tantalizing rematch between Denver and Pittsburgh after their memorable Week 15 duel, but the Broncos defense will look quite different from that last matchup with the hopeful return of starting safeties Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward.

In their absence, the Roethlisberger posted 380 passing yards and three touchdowns on a defense that finished No. 1 in passing yards allowed per game and per play. Had those two been available, perhaps the Steelers passing attack wouldn't have been so successful or able to mount its three-touchdown comeback in the second half, and Roethlisberger said he is well aware of how daunting their returns can be.

"We didn’t face them at full strength. We know that. That’s why we got lucky last time," Roethlisberger said. "It was at our place and we made the plays. Like I said, they weren’t healthy. We’re expecting a fully healthy team at their place where it’s going to be loud and probably the biggest challenge of the year for us."

It'll be an even tougher challenge if Roethlisberger doesn't have all-world receiver Antonio Brown lining up on Sunday, too. Brown, who did not practice on Wednesday, is recovering from a concussion he suffered during the Steelers' final drive in their wild-card win over the Bengals.

But even if Brown can't go Sunday, the Steelers still have great depth with Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey available, and Roethlisberger has faith in their depth stepping up.

"Lots of faith. That’s kind of been our M.O. all year," Roethlisberger said. "We’ve been a ‘next man up’ kind of team from pretty much every single position on the football field. Obviously, he’s a special football player. If he can’t go, that hurts, but we have a couple of days. Hopefully he can get ready. If not, we’re going to have to have someone else step up."

And if Bryant can make more special plays like the front-flip touchdown catch he made in Cincinnati, the Steelers will still be in capable hands.