Emerging comeback king undergoes MRI

PITTSBURGH – Tom Brady showed a cool hand to Steelers fans five weeks earlier, but the reigning king of fourth-quarter comebacks has a challenger to his throne in young Ben Roethlisberger.

Monday night, the Steelers' quarterback engineered the seventh fourth-quarter comeback of an NFL career that has yet to span a season and a half.

Brady, who has directed 11 such rallies (counting playoff games) in five-and-a-half years in the league, had only one at a similar point in his career, and that one came as a 24-year-old in 2001.

The 23-year-old Roethlisberger engineered Monday night's rally with a knee injury that affected his performance after opening the game with a scintillating touchdown drive against the Baltimore Ravens. On that drive, after a 5-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El, Roethlisberger took a shot to the right knee by Ravens lineman Jarret Johnson.

Roethlisberger limped to and from the huddle after the hit, but on the next play converted a fourth-and-one with a quarterback sneak. Four plays later, he threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to complete a drive in which Roethlisberger completed 7 of 8 passes for 55 yards. The rest of the game, he completed 11 of 22 passes for 122 yards.

Tuesday morning, coach Bill Cowher reported that Roethlisberger was undergoing an MRI exam on the knee.

"The initial diagnosis is that it's a posterior capsule strain," Cowher said. "All the ligaments are fine. We'll have a further update on him as the week goes on."

Roethlisberger said his cleat was stuck in the ground during the hit and that it was "pretty painful." He said it aggravated a pre-existing injury, but not the injury to his left knee that was sustained during a fourth-quarter rally three weeks earlier in San Diego.

"He gutted it out. He was hurt," said Cowher. "He came in and told me after they came in and looked at it and taped it up, he told me at halftime, ‘I'm going to give it a shot but if I feel like I'm hurting this team, I'm going to take myself out.' I told him, ‘You know where you're at with it.'

"I've got a lot of respect for Ben. He's a competitive guy. He's a tough guy. Our doctors have done a good job communicating with him and him with them in regards to the risks of putting him back out there. Like I said, I think it was painful and hopefully it's something he can work through. But we'll rest him and see where he is at the end of the week."

The Steelers came into the game looking to throw more "to loosen them up," Cowher said of the Ravens, who used at least eight men at the line of scrimmage most of the game.

The 30 pass attempts Monday night are a regular-season high for Roethlisberger, who'd thrown 28 passes in an early-season loss to New England and in a win last year against the New York Giants. In last season's playoff game against the Jets, Roethlisberger also threw 30 passes.

Roethlisberger led the Steelers to an early lead against the Ravens on Monday night, but the Ravens came back to take a 19-17 lead with 3:21 remaining.

That was too much time to leave Roethlisberger, who previously directed fourth-quarter comebacks against the Chargers this year, the Jets in the playoffs, and the Giants, Jaguars, Cowboys and Bengals last season.

"I looked at Ben and said, hey, this is what it's all about," Cowher said prior to Monday night's final Steelers drive.

And Roethlisberger's reaction?

"I just smiled," he said. "He knows he doesn't have to tell me that. He knows I'm going to be there for him."

Roethlisberger completed passes to Randle El and Quincy Morgan for 14 and 23 yards before turning the game over to the running backs and kicker Jeff Reed, whose 37-yarder with 1:40 remaining was the game-winner.

"He's a very poised quarterback, that's the only way I can put it," Cowher said. "He has a feel for the game, an understanding of what the scenario is in terms of the time. He's a very competitive, confident individual in those situations. You never sense the guy overreacting. You can relate it to a lot of things, but he's like that guy in basketball who wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line. I would equate that to our quarterback at the end of a game."

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