After a thrilling win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly left Paul Brown Stadium with plenty of questions. Set to take on the top seeded Denver Broncos this weekend, Pittsburgh is facing the possibility of being without its starting quarterback and top wide receiver.
As has become so accustomed to the Steelers, both star players’ injuries came as a result of Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Cincinnati’s Burfict had already knocked Le’Veon Bell out for the season on a brutal tackle in Week 8, but his aggression reached a new level in last week’s Wild Card game.
Late in the third quarter, Burfict sacked Ben Roethlisberger – violently slamming him to the ground in the process. Roethlisberger fell on the right shoulder that has given him problems all season, and needed to head to the locker room following the hit.
While Big Ben managed to come back and lead his team to a last-second victory, reports have confirmed that he has a sprained AC joint and torn ligaments in his throwing shoulder.
Looking ahead to this week’s game against Denver, Roethlisberger said he would “do whatever I can to be out there, but not at the expense of my team.” Always known for his toughness, even Roethlisberger expressed hesitation when asked about his chances to play, saying, “I honestly don’t know.”
Of equal importance is Antonio Brown’s potential absence, as the elusive wide receiver is undoubtedly Pittsburgh’s biggest weapon. Brown took a nasty hit from Burfict on the final drive of the game, which resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
Brown laid on the field after the cheap shot for several minutes, and now finds himself in the league’s concussion protocol. Since then, reports have surfaced indicating it’s “not looking good” for Brown to play this weekend.
After going for 16 catches, 189 yards and 2 touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s first meeting with Denver this season, Steelers fans are left hoping for a miraculous recovery by Brown.
If Brown is unable to play this weekend, Denver looks to be well on its way to its second AFC Championship Game in the last three years.