Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers took a vicious hit to his left knee against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. He was quickly declared out for the remainder of the game and replaced at quarterback by Michael Vick.
The extent of the injury has yet to be determined, but Coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that Roethlisberger was being evaluated and would be sent for an MRI.
The Steelers went on to win the game 12-6, but if Roethlisberger were to miss all or most of the season, it would have to be considered a Pyrrhic victory.
In the third quarter, the Steelers were leading 9-3 and Roethlisberger dropped back to pass. Rams safety Mark Barron tumbled toward Roethlisberger, whose knee appeared to hyperextend. He was on the ground for an extended period before being taken off the field on a cart and into the locker room for further testing.
“I tripped over somebody’s feet and on my way down I caught a piece of his leg,” Barron told reporters after the game when asked what happened on the play.
The hit could have consequences for Barron if it is determined to be an illegal play. No penalty was called, and Tomlin said he did not have an issue with the play, but league officials will have to determine if Barron violated the rule, which states:
“A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.”
The footnotes of the rule state:
- A defender cannot initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the passer in the knee area or below, even if he is being contacted by another player.
- It is not a foul if the defender swipes, wraps or grabs a passer in the knee area or below in an attempt to tackle him.
At the time of the injury, Roethlisberger was 20 for 24 with 192 yards and an interception. Vick was not asked to do much, going 5 for 6 for 38 yards. Le’Veon Bell, who rushed 19 times for 62 yards in his first game back after a two-game suspension, scored the game’s only touchdown. It was the first game this season in which there were fewer than two touchdowns scored.
Vick, who played last season for the Jets, was signed in August by Pittsburgh to be a backup to Roethlisberger. A former Pro Bowler, Vick has not had a winning record as a quarterback since 2011. At the time of his signing, it was unclear if the 35-year-old could still offer enough production to justify the public relations issues involved with his complicated legal history.
If Roethlisberger misses significant time, the Pittsburgh offense may have to change to one more suited to Vick’s unique talents, which include an incredible ability to scramble and a strong, but inaccurate, throwing arm. The only other quarterback on Pittsburgh’s active roster is Landry Jones, a third-year player out of Oklahoma who has yet to throw an N.F.L. pass.