Pittsburgh leaves door open for Roethlisberger


Maybe Ben Roethlisberger should consider throwing with his left hand.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said on his radio show Tuesday he’s dealing with torn ligaments and a sprain in his right shoulder, though coach Mike Tomlin stressed the team remains hopeful Roethlisberger will be ready for Sunday’s playoff visit to Denver.

“Ben has a chance,” Tomlin said. “We’ll manage him day to day.”

Roethlisberger’s shoulder was driven into the soggy turf at Paul Brown Stadium by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict late in the third quarter of last Saturday’s wild-card win over the Bengals.

The two-time Super Bowl champion described the pain as a “grind or a crunch or something” during his weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.

There were no plans to send him back in until Cincinnati rallied to take the lead. When Pittsburgh earned one last chance after Ryan Shazier stripped Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, Roethlisberger ambled back onto the field.

“I looked at him, he looked at me and we knew where we were,” Tomlin said. “Nine years together, that’s reasonable.”

His arm throbbing and his ability to get the ball down the field with any sort of velocity nonexistent, Roethlisberger — with more than a little help from the Bengals — managed to lead the Steelers on a drive that set up Chris Boswell’s winning field goal.

It was a memorable performance, one that extended Pittsburgh’s season at least another week. It also came at a heavy cost.

Roethlisberger remains in some pretty serious pain while All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol and starting running back DeAngelo Williams remains a longshot to return from a right foot injury.

Tomlin might want to consider replacing his “next man up” mantra with “last man up” considering the circumstances.

Landry Jones will get the majority of snaps in practice early in the week as Pittsburgh prepares for a rematch with the Broncos, whom the Steelers beat 34-27 on Dec. 20 behind the spectacular play of Brown.

Tomlin admitted the idea of playing without the NFL’s second-leading receiver is “unpleasant” but one he’ll have to consider after Brown took a shoulder to the head from Burfict with 22 seconds to go.

“We’re hopeful, we’re always hopeful,” Tomlin said. “We’ll do what’s right when all is said and done.”

Cardinals lose Okafor


The Arizona Cardinals have lost two defensive starters — outside linebacker Alex Okafor and defensive tackle Cory Redding — for the playoffs.

Redding’s loss was not a surprise, Okafor’s was.

On Tuesday, the team placed Okafor on the non-football injury list with an injured toe.

Coach Bruce Arians, clearly unhappy about the development, said Okafor was hurt over the weekend.

Asked what had happened, Arians said, “You’ve got to talk to Alex.”

Was it an accident or was Okafor doing something he shouldn’t have been doing?

“Talk to him,” Arians said.

That was not possible. Okafor was not in the locker room when reporters were allowed in after Tuesday’s practice.

Redding was placed on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury. He had missed four games with the ankle injury and aggravated it in the regular-season finale against Seattle.

“He’s going to be at least a month and we decided we needed fresh bodies,” Arians said.

The Cardinals signed outside linebacker Jason Babin and promoted outside linebacker Gabe Martin from the practice squad.

Okafor, in his third NFL season after being drafted by Arizona in the fourth round out of Texas in 2013, led the team last season in sacks (eight), quarterback pressures (20) and quarterback hits (19). But he had only two sacks this season, both in the season-opening victory over New Orleans.

Okafor had 13 starts this season, missing three games with a calf injury.

“It’s real tough,” inside linebacker Sean Witherspoon said of losing a player when the team had the weekend off. “You didn’t plan for that at all. It puts our GM and our coach in a bind.”

Weatherspoon said he didn’t know what happened to Okafor, either.

“I haven’t seen him. I haven’t talked to him,” Weatherspoon said. “The head coach said, ‘Don’t be that guy.’ Somebody was that guy. I’m just praying for Oke. I know he’s a good kid. Don’t get it twisted. Things happen. He’s one of the guys that I’ve known for about a year now. He had some bad luck, but ultimately you’ve got to take care of your business and make sure you’re there for your teammates. Being accountable, that’s what it all comes down to.”