Steelers coach is defending Big Ben decision

| Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011

Ben Roethlisberger didn't leave Monday night's game late in the fourth quarter with the outcome decided because, well, he didn't want to.

With the Steelers trailing San Francisco by three scores, Roethlisberger refused to exit the game despite being limited with a high-ankle sprain sustained Dec. 8.

"When Coach tried to get me out, I said, 'No, I'm not putting you in that situation, and I'm not quitting on our guys," Roethlisberger said. "I started this thing. I'm going to finish it."

Roethlisberger played the final two series, passing nine times and getting sacked twice, as the Steelers wasted an opportunity to take over the top spot in the AFC with a 20-3 loss to the 49ers.

Roethlisberger threw for 330 yards but failed to lead his team into the end zone for the first time in the past 28 games he started.

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin defended Roethlisberger's refusal to leave the game and his allowing Roethlisberger to dictate as much.

"He is a competitor, and I am not going to deny those guys those opportunities," Tomlin said. "His teammates definitely have an appreciation for that."

Tomlin said at no point did he seriously consider pulling Roethlisberger. Charlie Batch began warming up with about six minutes remaining in the game.

Tomlin has been in the same situation before with Roethlisberger, as has former coach Bill Cowher.

During Week 1 against Baltimore this year, Roethlisberger did not come out of a game the Steelers were losing 35-7. In 2006, with Cowher as coach, Roethlisberger stayed in the entire game despite trailing the Ravens, 27-0, with four minutes left. Roethlisberger was healthy in both of those games.

However, just three weeks ago, Roethlisberger sat the final 10 minutes against the Cincinnati Bengals with the Steelers leading, 35-7. He broke a thumb earlier in the game.

"I know what kind of competitor he is," Tomlin said. "I wanted to support him in that."

It is unknown whether Roethlisberger will play against St. Louis on Saturday, but he said he will leave the decision up to Tomlin.

"I always want to play," Roethlisberger said. "I want to be there and give my guys everything I have. I'll go out and play at 5 percent, I don't care. I told coach that. I said, 'It is your call. You make the call. You are the head coach.' "

Tomlin said he will use the week to evaluate Roethlisberger's high-ankle sprain before making a decision.

"He felt sore, of course, but he was no worse for the wear, as far as I could tell," Tomlin said. "We made the decision to give that guy an opportunity, and we don't second-guess it regardless of the outcome."

Tomlin denies knowledge of Ben ankle treatment

Tomlin said he did not know what treatment Roethlisberger received to his injured ankle before Monday night's game against San Francisco, including whether his franchise quarterback received a pain-killing injection.

"I don't know the specifics of what kind of medical treatment that he got," Tomlin said Tuesday.

After the game, Roethlisberger scoffed at ESPN analyst Steve Young's notion that Roethlisberger used an injection to help him play.

"There was no injection," Roethlisberger said. "There was two Tylenols and two Advils."

Said trainer John Norwig, "He played without needles."

Photo Galleries

Steelers vs. 49ers December 19, 2011

Steelers vs. 49ers  December 19, 2011

San Francisco defeats the Steelers, 20-3.

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