Making the Best of a Bum Thumb

Mike Prisuta noticed that the group surrounding Ben Roethlisberger tends to play harder when the quarterback's hurt. Roethlisberger agrees.

The Steelers will be an inspired team on Sunday night in Kansas City, at least on offense.

Ben Roethlisberger's thumb injury has seen to that.

Roethlisberger has a fracture on the thumb of his passing hand, but Mike Tomlin has been quick to point out it's "not the extent of, say, Jay Cutler's.

"To be honest, I am not overly concerned about (Roethlisberger's) ability to be effective in the midst of this," Tomlin summarized.

But Roethlisberger will still play at something less than 100 percent against the Chiefs, and there's something his Steelers teammates can glean from such circumstances. That, at least, is Roethlisberger's theory.

"I'd like to think they do," he said Wednesday. "That's one of the reasons I like to be out there (playing hurt). I love when I'm hobbling and they see me out there. I may be completely off base but I feel like they say, ‘Wow, he's dinged up, he's hurt, he's fighting, he's putting it all on the line for us. We need to step our game up to protect him.'

"Yeah, I think it's a big mental edge."

Roethlisberger has played hurt often enough in his eight Steelers seasons to know of what he speaks.

Sometimes, his injuries are fairly obvious, such as the broken nose he suffered last season in Baltimore. Sometimes, they're more perceived on somebody's part (remember the alleged broken toes in the AFC Championship Game against New England?).But given that perception is reality, whenever Big Ben is limping around with a John Wayne gait the rest of the Steelers are likely to respond accordingly.

"The linemen, they care so much about me and keeping me healthy and upright," Roethlisberger said. "When they see you banged up and dinged up I think they go a little above and beyond to avoid getting you hit."

So he's playing on Sunday night, split-contraption and all. He's told the coaches he can play and he's playing, and that's that.

"You have to be honest," Roethlisberger said. "For me, you want to give your team the best chance to win the football game. Could I go out there at 20 percent? Yes. But would me at 20 percent be better than Charlie Batch at 100 percent? No, absolutely not.

"For me, it's about how can I put our team in the best situation to win a football game. So it's about being honest with yourself and the coaches."

Roethlisberger hasn't played at 20 percent yet, but "I've been down pretty low before," he acknowledged. "But if that happens going into the game, it's usually, ‘Coach, I'm going to give you everything I got. And once the game gets going if I don't feel like I have it I'll hand it over.

"You may go into a game at 65 percent, but once the adrenaline kicks in and once you start playing, you raise your level. For me it's not about consecutive starts or touchdowns or yards or stats. For me it's about being out there for my teammates and not letting them down."

That "I'll hand it over" theory hasn't been tested nearly to the extent of Roethlisberger's contention that the rest of the troops will play harder when he's hurting.

It'll remain just a theory until Roethlisberger actually starts a game at something less than 100 percent and then actually hands it over to someone else, and that hasn't happened yet.

"Not that I can think of," Roethlisberger said.

So no matter how bad it gets, it'll be up the coaches to yank a still-functioning Big Ben.

"Pretty much," Roethlisberger said.

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