The Steelers' worst fears when Ben Roethlisberger left Sunday's 28-26 loss to the Seahawks were realized Monday morning: Their future Hall of Fame quarterback will require surgery on his right elbow and will miss the remainder of the 2019 season.
He had an MRI Sunday night. And the results were not good.
"Ben Roethlisberger had an MRI on his right elbow Sunday evening and it was determined by the Steelers’ medical team that surgery will be required," Mike Tomlin said in a release from the team. "We expect the surgery will be scheduled for this week. He will be placed on our Reserve/Injured List and is out for the season."
Roethlisberger issued a statement late Monday afternoon, emphatically declaring he plans to finish out the three-year extension he signed this past offseason.
"This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people," Roethlisberger said. "I can only trust God’s plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season. The Steelers committed three years to me this offseason and I fully intend to honor my contract and reward them with championship level play. I will do all I can to support Mason and the team this season to help win games. I love this game, my teammates, the Steelers organization and fans, and I feel in my heart I have a lot left to give."
With the 37-year-old out for the remainder of the season, the Steelers will turn things over to second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph. Rudolph, a 2018 third-round draft pick, relieved Roethlisberger at halftime Sunday and threw for 112 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the second half.
"It's crazy and it's losing the leader of our team to injury," Rudolph said Monday. "But that's what backups do and that's what I've done my entire career, high school, college or now. I'm just going to be the same person and continue to prepare. I prepare like I'm going to be the starter, even when I'm not. And that's what I'm going to continue to do."
As I reported Sunday night, Roethlisberger was having some elbow soreness during the week after the team's season-opening loss at New England two weeks ago. He did not practice Wednesday, but it’s not uncommon for Tomlin to give his veteran players the day off.
"I talked to Ben today, and he said he’s going to be with us throughout the whole way," JuJu Smith-Schuster said. "Obviously after his MRI, they said what they said, and he’s still going to be a role model and leader in this locker room, on the team, when we travel and play.”
A two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Roethlisberger just signed a two-year contract extension with the Steelers in the offseason worth $68 million that keeps him under contract through the 2021 season. But his long-term future with the team is now in doubt given the length of recovery time it sometimes takes for elbow surgeries.
Roethlisberger played in his 218th career game Sunday, moving him past former teammate Hines Ward into second place on the team's all-time list. All but two of those appearances have been starts, as Roethlisberger owns a career record of 140-70-1, including the postseason. That places him seventh on the league's all-time list for wins by a quarterback, three behind Dan Marino and four behind John Elway.
The Steelers traded third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars last week for a fifth-round draft pick. Dobbs had been the team's primary backup to Roethlisberger in 2018 before being surpassed by Rudolph in the preseason.
The team is expected to sign rookie Devlin Hodges from its practice squad to replace Roethlisberger on the 53-man roster.
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