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Debate centers on Roethlisberger's injury

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By Scott Brown
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008

There is no denying that Ben Roethlisberger played hurt Sunday night.

How much pain the quarterback endured in his right shoulder while leading the Steelers to a 10th consecutive victory over the Cleveland Browns remains a matter of speculation.

What should be comforting to Steelers fans: Roethlisberger's shoulder injury does not appear to be serious, and he does not appear to be in danger of missing Sunday's game at Philadelphia.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will address Roethlisberger's status today at his weekly news conference.

Tomlin said last week that Roethlisberger had a sore shoulder and characterized the injury as no big deal. Then, during its telecast of the Steelers-Browns game Sunday night, NBC said Roethlisberger was playing with an AC separation in his shoulder.

Roethlisberger did not appear to be in any obvious discomfort Monday as he ate lunch at the Steelers' South Side practice facility. He did not have his right arm in a sling. Nor did he have his shoulder wrapped or packed in ice.

That was not the only indication that Roethlisberger's injury is a minor one. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown at Cleveland Browns Stadium despite throwing, at times, into stiff winds. Roethlisberger also had enough arm strength to complete passes of 48 and 31 yards.

"He seems like he's cool," Steelers guard Kendall Simmons said of Roethlisberger. "He'll probably get a little treatment, chill out Wednesday (on the first day of practice this week) and do what he's got to do to get ready (for Sunday's game)."

There are six grades of shoulder separations.

Roethlisberger does not appear to have a separation beyond Grades 1 or 2 -- the mildest forms of injury. Any separation beyond a Grade 2 involves a tear of the AC joint, which is formed by the joining of the collarbone, shoulder blade and humerus.

A Grade 1 or 2 separation would cause an athlete pain when he is playing, according to medical literature. But neither would necessarily put him at risk of aggravating the injury by throwing the ball.

Neither Tomlin nor Roethlisberger talked about the extent of the quarterback's injury following the game.

Roethlisberger referred any questions about his shoulder to the Steelers' trainers. When asked about NBC's report during its telecast, Tomlin said, "They know more than I do. That's good television, I guess."

Roethlisberger's physical condition while playing in a nationally televised game has generated headlines before.

Following the AFC Championship Game in January 2005, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher refuted a claim by Roethlisberger that he had broken a couple of toes during a 41-27 loss to the Patriots.

In September 2006, Michele Tafoya of "Monday Night Football" reported before a game in Jacksonville that Roethlisberger would play despite having a temperature of 104 degrees.

Roethlisberger later said that Tafoya may have misunderstood him, adding that his temperature had been 100.4 degrees; Tafoya stood by her original report.

Reporters weren't the only ones in the dark about Roethlisberger's latest injury.

When asked after the game about the NBC report, starting right tackle Willie Colon said, "That's the first time I heard that. We just thought he was banged up."

"I didn't know it was that bad," Simmons said yesterday of Roethlisberger's shoulder. "He was just like, 'Make sure you all do the best you can to keep me clean tonight.' We're always trying to do that, but if his shoulder is bothering him, you try to do a little extra."

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