Steelers' Roethlisberger has surgery on left knee
After serving his four-game Deflategate suspension, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady seemed on course for a marquee Week 7 match-up with Ben Roethlisberger. But now Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger figures to be the no-show.
Roethlisberger, who leads the NFL with 16 touchdown passes, is expected to miss the game after surgery Monday removed a small piece of a torn meniscus in his left knee. His backup, Landry Jones, looms as the new starter.
But if Jones was dreaming of a David and Goliath scenario with the formidable Brady, he kept it to himself. He even claimed in the Steelers' locker room early Monday afternoon he had not received official word on his status.
“You never what's going to happen during the week, and what's going to go on, so I'm gonna prepare like I have been in the past and we'll see what happens,” he said.
Across the room, running back Le'Veon Bell was more definitive.
“He's going to be the leader on offense now, so we've got to lean on him, let him make his plays, make sure he's comfortable,” Bell said of Jones. “We've got to make plays for him, just how we do when Ben is in there.”
One quarterback, San Diego's Philip Rivers, was known to have returned the week after undergoing similar surgery, but that was for an AFC championship game. The Steelers have more than half the regular season remaining and are off the week after playing New England.
On Monday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin in a statement confirmed Roethlisberger's surgery, calling it “successful,” and added, “Though we do not know a specific timetable for when he will be able to return to the field, we are confident this injury is not long-term.''
Roethlisberger, who missed four games last season with a sprained MCL and bone bruise, and parts of four others, got hurt during the second quarter of Sunday's 30-15 loss in Miami. He came out briefly and finished the game in obvious pain. Afterward, he said he felt “something funny” in the knee.
The timing of the injury is less than humorous for the Steelers (4-2), who not only looked inept against a presumably inferior opponent but now must contend with the 5-1 Patriots, who, as usual, lead the AFC East.
In his fourth season with the Steelers, Jones replaced Roethlisberger during the Miami game and threw an incompletion, his only attempt so far.
Jones was inactive during his first two seasons after the Steelers took him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft out of Oklahoma. He started twice for Roethlisberger last season (Michael Vick got the other two starts) and had mixed results.
In his first start, Jones completed 8 of 12 passes for 168 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 25-13 win over Arizona. The next week, inside Kansas City's cauldron of noise, he was 16 of 29 for 209 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 23-13 loss.
“Last year I performed pretty well in most situations, so I feel like I have the confidence of the guys,” he said.
And in himself, too, guard Ramon Foster observed.
“The way he delivers the plays in the huddle” Foster said. “He's calm about it now. It's not like he's timid. He's a guy that's understanding what's going on now. “
Zach Mettenberger, who started 10 games for Tennessee in 2014 and 2015, figures to back up Jones.
In another injury related development, the Steelers offense might get some help this week if tight end Ladarius Green finally suits up. The club's top free-agent signee said he hopes to practice Wednesday and maybe play against the Patriots.
Green has been on the PUP list since the start of training camp. He had ankle surgery in January and reportedly has had concussion issues.
“I feel like it's been forever,” he said.
Sitting out has been “real frustrating,” said Green, who has used the time to learn the playbook and get acclimated. But there is no substitute for the real thing.
“You can learn as much as you want to, but until you get on the field and actually go through it, it's a big difference,” he said.
Bob Cohn is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.