Bone bruise a concern for Roethlisberger in return to Steelers
All of the ligaments in Ben Roethlisberger's left knee are fully intact.
That's the good news for the Steelers concerning their franchise quarterback after Sunday's 12-6 win over the Rams.
The bad news is that a bone bruise that accompanied Roethlisberger's MCL sprain could be what prevents him from being back on the field earlier.
Roethlisberger is expected to be out at least four weeks, but a bone bruise that also was diagnosed after an MRI on Sunday night after the team charter arrived back in Pittsburgh could push his time frame to return closer to six weeks, which would be sometime in early November.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Monday refused to put any kind of time frame on Roethlisberger's return.
“Ben is a competitor, and we are confident he will do everything in his power to return at the appropriate time,” Tomlin said. “He is going to be out for a number of weeks. I don't have great detail about what that length of time might look like or might be, to be quite honest with you. I know he is out this week.”
Tomlin said he would know more about Roethlisberger's rehab schedule and possible return following Thursday's AFC North game against the Ravens at Heinz Field.
There is no quick fix for Roethlisberger's knee, especially when it comes to the bone bruise — which is a stage before an actual fracture occurs. There are no treatments for bone bruises other than rest and support.
Dr. David Chao, a former NFL head team physician, wrote on National Football Post on Monday that Roethlisberger's bone bruise shouldn't be trivialized.
“One cannot just take pain medicine and ignore the symptoms,” Chao wrote. “Despite Roethlisberger's ironman reputation, he can't just play through it. Edema or swelling in the bone can lead to complications and articular cartilage loss if not careful.”
However, there are varying opinions about the injury and how it could affect an athlete.
Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic and sports medicine specialist based in Charleston, S.C., said a bone bruise typically is not a big deal other than the pain associated with it. However, Geier said bone bruises typically heal around the back end of the four- to six-week range.
“It shouldn't delay his overall recovery,” Geier said. “The bone bruise probably wouldn't limit him, though. If his MCL heals sooner, he could play through the discomfort a bone bruise might cause.”
Roethlisberger is known for having a tough-guy mentality. He has played through a broken nose, sore ankles and was on the practice field only months after his motorcycle accident in 2006.
Roethlisberger never has missed more than three consecutive games. The only time that happened, the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL in early 2006. That year, veteran Charlie Batch had to fill in. This time, it's veteran Mike Vick.
The Steelers signed Vick on Aug. 25 after backup Bruce Gradkowski was put on season-ending injured reserve after hand surgery. Tomlin said Vick has had enough time to get acclimated to the Steelers' system despite playing only 35 preseason snaps and 18 on Sunday in relief of Roethlisberger.
Vick completed 5 of 6 passes for 38 yards against the Rams and managed only two first downs in his five series. However, the Steelers were in survival mode, clinging to 9-6 and 12-6 leads.
Against the Ravens, Tomlin said they will create an offense that is specifically designed to highlight Vick's strengths: getting the ball to Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on quick throws and taking advantage of Vick's strong arm with throws down the field.
“We have to find what his personality and our personality is with him, letting him get a week's preparation from that standpoint,” Tomlin said. “We're not going to assume things, because Mike is a veteran player and he's up to speed on our large body of work. We're going to work in his comfort zone and bring the game to him to allow him to put us in the best position to win the football game.”
Vick hasn't done much winning as of late.
Over the past three years, Vick has won six of the 19 games he started with the Jets and Eagles. He has a much better supporting cast around him with the Steelers, and Tomlin said he has confidence that Vick can help them win.
“It's not his first rodeo,” Tomlin said.