The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is renowned for being able to keep on ticking after taking a licking. Roethlisberger’s tough-guy reputation will be tested again Sunday against Denver when he will try to play through a right shoulder injury.
Here are eight moments where Roethlisberger’s grit was on full display during his 12-year NFL career.
As a rookie, Roethlisberger bruised his quadriceps but still led the Steelers to the game-winning field goal in a 17-16 win in Jacksonville. Although he missed several days of practice before the next game, Roethlisberger still quarterbacked the Steelers to a 17-6 victory over the New York Jets the following weekend.
Two months earlier, Roethlisberger suffered a broken jaw and nose while riding without a helmet during a motorcycle crash. Roethlisberger was later hospitalized again for an emergency appendectomy that forced him to miss the season opener. Roethlisberger rushed back for Pittsburgh’s Week 2 game at Jacksonville, which he later admitted was a mistake. The extra padding Roethlisberger wore around his midsection didn’t offer much protection. He was sacked twice and knocked down multiple times in a 9-0 road loss. Even though he left the field wincing in pain while holding his abdomen, Roethlisberger still started the next week against Cincinnati.
Big Ben didn’t see Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott blitzing from the right side during the second quarter. Bad mistake. "That’s probably the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life," Roethlisberger said afterward. "I didn’t see the guy coming. He hit me clean, hit me front side and I just kind of remember my head hitting the ground." In an era before the NFL instituted a concussion protocol, Roethlisberger only missed one play before returning. It didn’t get any better from there for Roethlisberger as he was sacked a total of nine times in a 27-0 loss to the Ravens.
More fuel was added to the Steelers-Ravens rivalry when an illegal — and not penalized — blow to the helmet by Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata broke the quarterback’s nose. Roethlisberger didn’t miss a play after receiving sideline treatment and got his revenge when throwing what proved to be the game-winning touchdown to running back Isaac Redman with 2:51 remaining in a 13-10 victory.
A high-ankle sprain forced Roethlisberger to wear a walking boot leading into a Week 15 game at San Francisco. His performance clearly suffered in a three-interception outing that contributed to a 20-3 loss. "I was probably the best 49er tonight," Roethlisberger said afterward. Contradicting pregame speculation by ESPN analysts, Roethlisberger insisted afterward that he used no pain-numbing medication to play. Affirming that he is indeed human, Roethlisberger did miss the following game against St. Louis before returning for the season finale at Cleveland.
A sprained left foot kept Roethlisberger out of the starting lineup against Cleveland, which is understandable considering he barely practiced and was on crutches earlier in the week. But when replacement Landry Jones was carted into the locker room midway through the first quarter with an ankle injury, Roethlisberger took the field. The Browns couldn’t take advantage of Roethlisberger’s limited mobility as he completed 22-of-33 passes for 379 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 30-9 Steelers rout.
Two weeks after his heroics against the Browns, Roethlisberger was floored by an illegal high-low hit against Seattle that left him lying on the ground for a couple of seconds. Roethlisberger appeared for nine more snaps in a 14-play scoring drive but then left the game after self-reporting concussion symptoms. Roethlisberger passed the NFL’s concussion protocol and returned the following week to throw four TD passes in a rout of Indianapolis.
Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s sack sent Roethlisberger into the locker room early in the fourth quarter of last Saturday night’s playoff game with what is believed an A/C sprain. Roethlisberger returned for the final drive, completing a key fourth-down pass on what proved the game-winning drive in a controversial 18-16 victory.