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News » Steelers expect Roethlisberger back

Steelers expect Roethlisberger back

Steelers expect Roethlisberger back
Pittsburgh - The Browns did not sniff the playoffs, but they might have altered the AFC landscape with a knockout of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday in Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh brushed off the absence and rolled, 31-0.

With 1:51 remaining in the first half, Roethlisberger, under pressure from D'Qwell Jackson and Willie McGinest, completed a 4-yard pass to Heath Miller at the Cleveland 33. Jackson and McGinest cleanly toppled Roethlisberger, whose helmet snapped back and banged the turf.

Roethlisberger remained on the Cleveland 45 for an extended period before being carted off on a stretcher. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance for evaluation. Before disappearing into the tunnel, he gave a thumb's-up gesture.

"He sustained a concussion," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "At this point [4:10 p.m. Sunday], all tests are negative, which is positive. He is not permanently injured or scarred. He just has a concussion."

As of 4:10, Tomlin said he was not sure if his starting quarterback remained in the hospital.

"That is all the information I have on his status at this point," Tomlin said. "Again, it is encouraging."

The Steelers, 12-4 and champions of the AFC North, have a first-round bye.

"We are optimistic he is going to be capable of playing [in two weeks]," Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger was handled on the field as if he might have sustained a neck injury. Tomlin said the neck is not an issue.

"It was just a precaution," Tomlin said. "When guys get a potentially significant concussion, we exercise caution and err on that side. That was what we were doing."

In the postgame locker room, Roethlisberger's teammates were confident their offensive leader would be OK in time for the first playoff game.

"We don't know how severe it is, we're going to have to wait and see - but Ben's a warrior," receiver Hines Ward said. "When he gets nicked up or banged up, he always responds and plays his tail off.

"Ben will be back. He'll take the week off and get the loose screws right in his head and be prepared for the playoffs. We shouldn't miss a beat."

The teammates were encouraged by what they saw from Roethlisberger during the delay.

"He seemed like he had all his stuff together when he left the field," linebacker James Farrior said. "I think bringing out the stretcher was to make sure he was stabilized."

Roethlisberger, 9-of-14 for 110 yards and one pick, was replaced by Byron Leftwich. Leftwich capped the drive with an 8-yard scramble to make it 14-0.

Leftwich finished 7-of-12 for 80 yards, then gave way to Dennis Dixon (1-for-1, 3 yards).

"Byron is a veteran, franchise-caliber quarterback," Tomlin said. "We have a great deal of confidence in what he can do for us. We always expect him to do well when he goes in, and he did."

Sunday's game featured four Mid-American Conference products completing at least one pass: Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio) and Leftwich (Marshall) for Pittsburgh and Bruce Gradkowski (Toledo) and Josh Cribbs (Kent State) for Cleveland.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: dmanoloff@plaind.com; 216-999-4664

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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Hank Fraley Name: Hank Fraley
Position: C
Age: 30
Experience: 9 years
College: Robert Morris
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