Why was Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline?
That's the question fans and media alike continue to ask after the Steelers' 24-21 loss to the Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. Roethlisberger suffered a rib injury late in the second quarter, jogged off the field, then returned to the sideline after the half, but Josh Dobbs stayed in the game.
Roethlisberger returned with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter to lead a touchdown drive and one final play that set up a potential game-tying field goal, but the question remains: What about the 25 minutes before that?
Nobody seems to have that answer — not even the players.
“No one knew anything," Steelers guard Ramon Foster told 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday morning. "We saw Joshua (Dobbs) warming up and we thought, ‘Oh, maybe there's something going on.’ ... That’s all we knew. Nobody communicated anything. We were looking through the tunnel, also. There was no communication, which is kind of proper, anyway, until after the fact.”
After Foster's appearance, Roethlisberger joined the show.
On current health: "I'm doing OK — still pretty sore. I feel better today than I did yesterday, so that's good news."
On post-injury process: "At halftime, Doc (James) Bradley and I, we went up a little early and we went to the X-ray (room) because he wanted to get X-rays on my ribs. We had to find the X-ray room first, and in that old stadium, it wasn't easy to do. Then once we got there, we had to wait on the technician to come in. We did a few X-rays, then we went back to our locker room. By the time we got back to our locker room, the team was already back on the field. That's how long it took to get an X-ray."
On status once he returned to the sideline: "When we were in the locker room at halftime, the X-rays that Doc got, he couldn't tell anything. The X-ray machine was really old, 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?' He goes, 'I can do that.'
"I got some medicine, and by the time I got even dressed, Josh's first series was done and their first series was done before I even got my shoulder pads back on. ... 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 protect myself? If I take the field, am I going to make our team worse? We've talked about it on this show before. You want to play unless you think you're going to hurt the team. You don't want to go out there just to be out there. We had a four-point lead, and, worst-case scenario, I said — and (Steelers GM) Kevin (Colbert) was actually the one that brought it up — he said, 'Let's take the same approach we did in Cincinnati a few years ago in that playoff game,' if you remember, when I hurt my shoulder. (There was) no intention in that Cincinnati game of getting back on the field, but I wanted to be out there with my guys.
"At this point, we didn't know if I was going to get on the field or not, but I wanted to get out there, and Kevin kind of made the comment, 'Let's let our defense hold them, Josh can get this thing done, but let's get out there,' and I agreed. So I got back out on the field, and they were in the middle of a drive — we were. I was just out there, trying to get loose, keep my legs loose, really just being out there in an emergency situation or to be there for Josh to help support him and answer questions for him. That's the reason we came back onto the field."
Could he have come in earlier? "When I came back onto the field, obviously I was talking with Coach Randy (Fichtner), talking with Coach (Mike Tomlin), and the team — and when I say 'the team,' that's Colbert, it's everybody — was kind of like, 'Let's let this thing play out.' It was still unknown with the injury. I think what they were probably worried about was making it worse, right?
"When I told coach... he asked how I was doing. I said, 'I'm alright. I'll give you everything I got.' And he said, 'Let's wait and see how this plays out,' and I think that was the decision of the team. At that time, that drive, Josh was kind of there driving. I don't remember the exact, specific point, but coach and I were having communications. I was just trying to stay loose.
"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 coach kind of said, 'Hey, I'm going to put you in. Let's put you in regardless of what happens.' ... They ended up going down and scoring, of course, and it looks like I came in just because they scored, but I think it was coach's plan all along for me to come in the next series anyway."
On X-ray results: "The X-ray was inconclusive, I believe because the machine was old, but you have to ask Doc Bradley. We never knew (what the injury was) until yesterday when I went and got an MRI. We never really knew. By that time, the medicine was kicking pretty good, and I told coach, 'I'll give you everything I got.'"
On communication throughout the process: "Coach and I were constantly, we were communicating. There was a lot of communication going on, and I think that he was talking to other coaches, and I'm sure he was talking to doctors and trainers. There was a lot of communication. I was even going to the linemen and the guys when I was getting ready to go and just telling them, 'Hey, guys, I think I'm going to go. You've got to give me a little more time. Give me whatever you got. I'm going to need it.'"
Ben's thoughts on media and fan reaction: "I'm still amazed and blown away this is getting so much publicity, or whatever you want to call it, when I think the talk should be about how well the guys played and gave us a chance to win that football game. ... That last drive we were in that we scored on — not the very last one, but the one before the last play — those guys gave me lots of time. Guys made plays. Holy cow. Jaylen Samuels, AB, JuJu, Switz, Vance, Jesse James. Guys were making plays. That's what should be talked about is how awesome their play was on the last drive."
During his press conference, Tomlin doubled down on some of Roethlisberger's sentiments.
On X-ray machine, process: "First, regarding Ben's health, what transpired during halftime and subsequently after that. Ben sustained an injury at the end of the first half. We went in at halftime, he needed to be evaluated, and X-ray was a part of that. Getting the X-ray executed was not a fluid thing. Oftentimes, it's not a fluid thing to be honest with you — new and unfamiliar venues and things of that nature. Ben was accompanied by our medical staff and Kevin Colbert, our general manager. They went through their procedures.
"Even after getting the X-ray, we didn't have great clarity, to be honest with you, (we weren't) able to read the X-ray to our satisfaction. It was probably a dated piece of equipment or what have you. So we never really, fully had a complete understanding of what specifically the injury was at the stadium site."
Making a decision on Ben: "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 if 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 be to only make Ben available in an emergency-like situation, (which was) exactly what we did in Cincinnati several years ago because of a lack of information."
— DK Pittsburgh Sports (@DKPghSports) December 11, 2018
More X-ray clarification: "We got the results of the X-ray (but) they weren't readable. It was into the third quarter by the time we got to the logistics of actually even getting the X-rays, and then they were less than readable."
On communicating with Ben: "We had a lot of communication. And we always do when we're dealing with matters related to his health and participation. It was ongoing, and that's why I said what I said after the game, that he and I had discussions prior to him returning to the game about him potentially returning to the game."
Further clarification on injury, putting Ben back into the game: "They were worried about a myriad of things. Obviously when you don't have clarity in terms of specifically what it is you're dealing with, sure, there are a number of concerns that slows down the process and makes you have extended conversations and things of that nature, and that's why we took the course of action that we took.
"Again, guys, we didn't have a lot of information, so dialog was a part of the discussion — how he felt, whether or not the treatment they provided him in addition to the X-ray was going to be effective. So there were several conversations throughout the course of the third quarter or whatever when he came back to the sideline after getting done what he needed to get done, and communication was a part of the ultimate decision to put him back into the game or whether or not we were even going to consider putting him back into the game."
On 'flow' comments: "Whether or not we were ahead or behind had nothing to do with whether or not we inserted him (Roethlisberger) into the game and that was my reference in terms of 'rhythm and flow.' It doesn't necessarily mean we had to be behind to reinsert him, it just meant were we fluidly moving the ball? Did we have a chance to put ourselves in position to win?"
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