The narrative of what happened Sunday in Oakland regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s rib injury and his availability has changed over the past two days.
What had been a broadside criticism of coach Mike Tomlin from many sides for his use and non-use of his starting quarterback in Oakland took a different turn after several sources provided new information.
It does not reach the level of calling it Rib-gate, or even X-ray-gate. We suppose Roethlisberger and Tomlin are partly to blame for much of the skepticism because their explanations immediately after the game were not real clear. That led to all kinds of speculation about what really happened, including those who suggested Roethlisberger should have fought to play if he were healthy.
But coaches and players are not always clear during interviews right after such a bitter defeat on the final play of the game.
It would appear nothing nefarious took place, unless you want to blame Oakland’s setup and X-ray technician, who was missing and unavailable to run the X-ray for a while, and his X-ray machine that took the picture of Roethlisberger’s ribs that, according to Tomlin, was “unreadable.”
“One hour before kickoff, the medical staff from both teams, as well as unaffiliated medical staff in the stadium, come together for a pre-game meeting led by the head physician for the home team,” an NFL spokesperson said Tuesday evening via email. “They review a number of items including the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and path to the X-ray unit to ensure medical care is as efficient and complete as possible.”
Dr. David J. Chao, a former San Diego team orthopedic surgeon, wrote about the Oakland X-ray room on Tuesday in the San Diego Union Tribune.
“The setup in Oakland is awful,” Chao wrote. “The X-ray machine is a long way from the field and up three flights of stairs. There are certainly complications there that don’t arise in other stadiums.”
We’re told that broken ribs are notoriously difficult to diagnose with an X-ray even when the photo is clear, although it was funny when Tomlin called the Raiders’ X-ray equipment “outdated.”
That is why Roethlisberger had an MRI on Monday in Pittsburgh, which diagnosed his injury as bruised ribs.
The Steelers’ doctor administered a pain-killing shot to the quarterback at halftime in Oakland and he finally came out on the field and waited for the medication to kick in. Once he felt good enough to play, he told them, and he played.
What’s so mysterious about that?
It’s happened before. Tomlin cited the playoff game in Cincinnati when Roethlisberger was hurt, Landry Jones went in and was ineffective. Roethlisberger went back in and through a miracle performed by the Bengals, the Steelers won.
Roethlisberger also started a game in San Francisco in 2011 on a badly sprained ankle. He probably should not have played that day, but he did, he played poorly and the Steelers lost.
You know the Steelers did not have a good day when Rocky Bleier said he was “done” with them.
Bleier, one of the most venerable players from those 1970s Super Bowl teams, even called for the firing of some coaches. It was reminiscent of Steel Curtain lineman Dwight White ripping the Steelers defenses of the mid-1980s as “soft and cheesy.”
Bleier, though, hasn’t uttered a critical public word in 40 years, despite all those motivational speeches he gives around the country. He made up for it with one Facebook rant Monday.
And when a key player of the ‘70s Steelers speaks, most in Pittsburgh take it to heart. That dynasty will forever remain the most popular in town.
Tomlin took the high road when he responded to a question about what Bleier said, first saying he did not hear it.
“Those guys are entitled to an opinion,” Tomlin said. “They care and care deeply. We appreciate them and respect the fact that they care and care deeply. Trust that we’re equally or more disappointed than Rocky.”
Tomlin had the good taste not to mention that Bleier’s 1980 Steelers, which were going for their third Super Bowl win in a row, finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Or that the 1981 Steelers (without Bleier) went 8-8. Both still had Terry Bradshaw in his prime.
Where the Steelers find their kickers
Whatever happens with Chris Boswell, know this — the Steelers have found most of their kickers as cast-offs, going back at least to Gary Anderson whom they claimed off waivers from Buffalo in 1982. And most of them performed well.
More recent examples of players signed by them during the season because of the failure or injuries to their kickers: Jeff Reed (2002), Shaun Suisham (2010) and Boswell (2015).
Boswell signed after they traded for Josh Scobee, who failed miserably. That happened after Suisham blew out his knee in a preseason game.