Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger latest in long line of gritty QBs
Ben Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger latest in long line of gritty QBs

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 2:54 p.m. ET

PITTSBURGH (AP) The only thing missing was the music. You know, that little whistle thing from ''The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,'' the riff that might as well be for ''get your popcorn ready, it's about to go down.''

When Ben Roethlisberger started warming up on the sideline on Sunday against Cleveland, his sprained left foot protected by a modified cleat and his swagger unmistakable, it hardly mattered that the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback started the week in a walking boot or had barely broken a sweat in practice while backup Landry Jones prepared for his second career start.

The moment Jones came limping to the sideline after getting his left ankle stepped on, Roethlisberger took off his baseball cap, discarded the towel around his neck and adrenaline took over.

''Ben is Ben,'' Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant said. ''So once he got in the game, he does what No. 7 do.''


Namely, light up the Browns. Stepping up into the pocket with confidence and picking apart Cleveland's depleted secondary like a modified seven-on-seven drill, Roethlisberger passed for 379 yards - the most ever in a regular season game by a player who didn't start - and three touchdowns in a 30-9 win. Not bad for a guy who left the same stadium a week before on a cart with his left foot throbbing and his immediate future seemingly in doubt.

Roethlisberger jokingly attributed his seemingly miraculous recovery on guzzling milk. The truth is actually a combination of a little luck - Roethlisberger's initial injury could have been a lot worse - aggressive treatment by Pittsburgh's training staff and Roethlisberger's apparent enjoyment on playing with pain.

''I got stepped on once which hurt but other than that, I felt pretty good,'' Roethlisberger said.

He looked pretty good too while playing with the kind of grit that has become his trademark, though Roethlisberger is hardly the first quarterback to give it a go while playing at less than 100 percent

Sure, it's arguably the most glamorous position in sports, but the job description also requires you to stand still in the midst of chaos and absorb blindside hits from 300-pound guys with bad intentions.

Here's a look at how some of Roethlisberger's brethren have tried - and occasionally failed - to grit their teeth and give it a go:

MAGNIFICENT MCNABB: Trainers initially diagnosed Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb with merely a sprained ankle when he twisted it on the third play of the game against Arizona on Nov. 11, 2002. Unable to scramble - during a portion of his career when that was his thing - McNabb still threw for 255 yard and four touchdowns in a 38-14 romp. Only afterward did X-Rays reveal McNabb's ankle was actually broken. He missed the final six weeks of the regular season but returned for the postseason, where the Eagles fell to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the NFC title game.

GETTING HIS PHIL: The euphoria of the biggest win of Philip Rivers' young career was dimmed by the news he'd torn the ACL in his right knee during San Diego's 28-24 upset over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. He put off major surgery, instead opting for an arthroscopic procedure while holding out faint hope he could play in the AFC championship game against the unbeaten Patriots. Playing with a brace that would have required a building permit in some cities, Rivers threw for 211 yards and two picks in a 21-12 loss.

BODY BLOW: Chris Simms spent his childhood watching dad Phil lead the New York Giants to a title while also enduring an injury-pockmarked career. That didn't stop Chris from going into the family business, though his NFL stay was relatively brief thanks in large part to a brutal afternoon against Carolina in Week 3 of the 2006 season. Simms left the game with what the team called cramping in the third quarter only to return and lead a late field goal drive, finishing with 139 yards passing and a touchdown. Hours later Simms was in the hospital having his spleen removed after doctors discovered it had ruptured during the game. He missed the rest of the season and only threw 19 more passes in his career before retiring in 2009.

TOUGH TITTLE: Long before Manning and Tom Brady made it trendy, Y.A. Tittle was thriving in his late-30s while playing for the New York Giants. The Hall of Famer won the MVP Award at age 37 in 1963 after leading league in touchdown passes (36), completion percentage and passer rating. The Giants cruised to the NFL title game against the Chicago Bears. Things started off well enough, with Tittle hitting Frank Gifford for a score to give New York an early lead. Momentum changed, however, when Tittle was drilled in the knee early in the second quarter. Playing on one leg, he wasn't the same, throwing five interceptions, the last on a pick in the end zone by Chicago's Richie Petibone with 10 seconds left. It was Tittle's last hurrah. He retired after a miserable 1964 season in which New York went 1-8-2.


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