Roethlisberger's thumb painful as Steelers return
The pain in Ben Roethlisberger's fractured right thumb isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Then again, grimacing a little bit when he grips the ball sure beats the alternative for the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback: not playing.
Roethlisberger practiced with a splint under his glove Monday and admitted there's a twinge when he takes the snap.
''It's definitely different,'' Roethlisberger said. ''It hurts, first off, just to grip the ball. It's something you have to get used to. I want to get some reps, I wanted to throw some (today).''
Roethlisberger expects to play Sunday when the Steelers (7-3) travel to Kansas City, even if it means making a few adjustments to the playbook.
He didn't take a snap from under center Monday, instead opting to work out of the shotgun and pistol formations to protect the thumb from getting smacked by a direct snap from center Maurkice Pouncey.
It's too early in the week to tell what that will mean against the Chiefs, though it wouldn't be the first time the Steelers modify their gameplan to accommodate Roethlisberger.
The team worked out of the shotgun and pistol last season against Baltimore to take some of the pressure off his sprained foot.
''We're trying to avoid it because it's tougher on the (running) back to see around me,'' Roethlisberger said. ''But if that's how we have to get through some practices and plays, we'll do that.''
Roethlisberger sustained the injury in the second half of a win over Cincinnati on Nov. 13 but didn't miss a play. The team's bye week gave him time to rest his hand and undergo treatment, though the only real way to make the pain disappear is to take time off
With the Steelers locked in a title battle for the AFC North title, that's not happening. Neither is taking a numbing shot.
''There's no way,'' Roethlisberger said. ''It wouldn't be very smart to numb your hand. It's just dealing with the pain and adrenaline is one of the best pain medicines there is.''
Roethlisberger joked the injury might not be good for his accuracy which he said ''isn't too good anyway.'' Not exactly. He's currently seventh in the NFL with a 63.3 percent completion rate.
While Roethlisberger expects to play, linebacker LaMarr Woodley's status remains day-to-day. Woodley hasn't played since suffering a strained hamstring in a victory over New England on Oct. 30.
''It's just getting better every day,'' Woodley said. ''I mean the worst thing about this hamstring injury is that it takes time to heal.''
Woodley participated in a few drills with the first team Monday but spent most of the practice working out alone. He was playing arguably the best football of his career before the injury yet stressed he's in no hurry to return despite weekly promises that he'll be good to go.
''You look at guys across the league coming back too early sometimes and next thing you know they're out 2-3 more weeks,'' Woodley said. ''I'm just trying to be smart about it.''
So are the Steelers, who have little margin for error heading into the final six weeks of the season.
The Steelers won the Super Bowl after the 2005 season while qualifying as a wild card then winning three straight on the road. Fun, to be sure, but not the preferred route to the ultimate destination.
''We've got to win them all,'' defensive lineman Brett Keisel said.