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Ben Roethlisberger advises young football players on the dangers of head injuries

On Wednesday, the Steelers practiced with Ben Roethlisberger and everyone's favorite slot cornerback.

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger most important task on Wednesday wasn't passing his concussion test in the morning, or practicing in the afternoon, but instead warning young football players about the dangers of messing around with brain injuries.

After all, Roethlisberger figures he would've attempted to get back on the field Sunday had he been a younger man.

"We need to be smarter as football players," he said. "It’s hard because people ask me how long do I want to play, and I say I don’t want to think about the end because I'm cheating the right here and now. You don’t want to think about after football with your head, but you have to. You have to think about the type of man, husband, father you want to be when you're done playing because this is such a short part of your life."

Roethlisberger took a blow to the head from Michael Bennett during the Pittsburgh Steelers' late fourth-quarter field goal drive against the Seattle Seahawks. Roethlisberger said his peripheral vision became affected later in the drive and he told team doctors about it after the drive was finished. He didn't return to the game, but was cleared to practice Wednesday and figures he'll pass the remainder of the week's concussion protocol and play Sunday.
But the affects of the hit threw a scare into him.

"I was literally standing there for the first time thinking it’s bigger than just me," Roethlisberger said.

And so on Wednesday he passed along his wisdom.

"We are blessed to be able to stand on a big platform and reach a lot of people," he said. "If you can touch or reach one person, I feel like it’s a successful day. So many young kids -- middle school, high school, college -- it’s tough to fight through a concussion. And it was tough when I first got in the league. It probably still is. But it’s not smart. That’s the one part of your body you shouldn’t mess with. You really shouldn’t."


The good news, of course, is that Roethlisberger practiced full-time Wednesday.

The bad news is that he threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown.

But back to the good news, at least for Steelers fans seeking a bandage for the team's leaky pass defense: It was Brandon Boykin who intercepted Roethlisberger for the score.

"I think he threw it to me on purpose to make me feel good," Boykin said with a smile.

If anyone's feeling sorry for anyone these days, it's for Antwon Blake, the starting left cornerback who's playing hurt and playing poorly.

Blake blamed himself Wednesday for the 80-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin that clinched Seattle's 39-30 win Sunday. And now Blake's on the verge of being benched. Boykin confirmed after practice that he and Blake "rotated around" when asked about the first-team grouping.

Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday he would look at his options this week after a three-game stretch in which the Steelers have allowed 964 yards passing, and Boykin, a career slot corner, appears to be Option No. 1.

"I have 100% confidence in myself that I can continue to do what I’ve been doing my whole career," Boykin said. "Whenever that opportunity comes, I’ll make the most of it."

Any opportunity would likely come at the expense of Blake, who after Wednesday's practice sat in the middle of a media mob with a cast on his left hand upon which was scrawled the words "Haters Frown When You Up & Smile When You Down."

So far, the haters have smiled.

Blake was asked if a variety of injuries have adversely affected his play this season.

"I'm not going to blame injuries," Blake said. "I've been playing hurt for a long time and I'm not going to sit here and blame my playing on injuries and make excuses. I'm a man and I just got to stand up out there on the field and make plays for this team."

He'll have to first bounce back from another poor outing in order to fend off Boykin this week in practice.

"The question's on your mind," Blake said, "Especially when you give up a touchdown and you feel like you lost the game for your team. Around here we have a 24-hour rule and that's behind us right now. It's now about focusing on our next opponent and winning and making the push we need to make."


Steelers missing Wednesday's practice: WR Martavis Bryant (hip), OLB James Harrison (knee), TE Earl Miller (ribs), FS Mike Mitchell (knee) and TE Matt Spaeth (knee).

ILBs Ryan Shazier (concussion) and Sean Spence (hamstring) were limited.

Colts who missed practice: S Mike Adams (ankle, hamstring), LT Anthony Castonzo (knee), LB Trent Cole (not injury related), CB Vontae Davis (ankle), WR Phillip Dorsett (ankle), LB Jerrell Freeman (hamstring), WR Andre Johnson (not injury related), QB Andrew Luck (abdomen, kidney), LB Robert Mathis (not injury related), G Hugh Thornton (elbow), WR Griff Whalen (heel).

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