Roethlisberger in concussion protocol after hitting head in practice
The sight of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lying on the ground brought a hush over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final workout of training camp Tuesday.
Roethlisberger had just thrown his fourth pass attempt in the “seven shots” 2-point simulation that opens the team portion of practice. The second-team players were preparing to get lined up in formation when practice came to a halt at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.
Roethlisberger was on his stomach, clutching his head.
“It didn’t look too pretty,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said.
Roethlisberger left practice and was evaluated for a possible concussion, coach Mike Tomlin said.
After the initial shock passed, Steelers players expressed a more optimistic prognosis about Roethlisberger’s hit to the head.
“It was a nervous little situation, but he got up fine,” said center Maurkice Pouncey, who is perhaps Roethlisberger’s closest friend on the team. “He looked totally good.”
Even before entering concussion protocol, Roethlisberger already was ruled out of the Steelers’ second preseason game, which is Thursday against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The Steelers don’t play again until Aug. 25, so Roethlisberger has 10 days to heal for what is expected to be his only preseason appearance.
Returning to practice after getting a scheduled day off Monday, Roethlisberger took his customary spot as the starter for “seven shots.” He threw touchdown passes on his first three attempts, then attempted a fade to the left corner for receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who made the catch with cornerback Mike Hilton in coverage.
Gilbert said he was blocking outside linebacker Keion Adams on the pass rush when they stumbled upon Roethlisberger.
“He got the ball off, and he ran into us,” Gilbert said.
“It happened so fast,” Gilbert said. “I saw his head whip back.”
After Roethlisberger was examined by trainers, teammates helped him to his feet. The quarterback sat on a water cooler for a few moments before walking off the field.
Roethlisberger talked briefly with general manager Kevin Colbert, then headed out of the stadium toward the team buses with members of the training staff trailing behind. The Steelers were practicing at Memorial Stadium because rain made Chuck Noll Field at Saint Vincent unplayable.
Roethlisberger, 36, has been diagnosed with at least three concussions in his 14-year NFL career. The most recent one occurred in a 2015 game in Seattle when Roethlisberger self-reported the head injury.
Gilbert said it was scary to see his quarterback dealing with another potential head injury.
“That’s my guy,” he said. “No one wants to see anything happen to him, especially in a practice like this. He’s coming to get his work in, throwing, (there’s no) tackling. Things happen.”
In July 2017, Roethlisberger said in an interview with the Tribune-Review that concussions would play a role in how many years he has left in his career. Roethlisberger since has said he hopes to play three to five more seasons.
Roethlisberger expressed concern about a 2017 report in The Journal of the American Medical Association that examined brains of 202 deceased football players and determined 88 percent had CTE. All but one of the 111 brains of former NFL players examined had CTE.
“It’s a factor,” Roethlisberger told the Trib last year. “I think, my wife, it was more of a factor for her. You have to take it into consideration. That’s why I’ve always been forthright and honest about my concussions and being hit in the head.
“This shows there’s nothing to mess with. If you want to mess with your brain, you can’t put a new one in. You can’t have a brain transplant. If you want to mess with your brain, go ahead. I’m not going to. I love my family and kids.
“This is definitely some real-life stuff.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.