Roethlisberger taken off on stretcher, suffers concussion

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sustained a concussion while being driven into the ground by two Cleveland Browns defenders late in the second quarter of an essentially meaningless game Sunday, but is expected to be ready for the playoffs.

As Roethlisberger delivered a 4-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller over the middle, he was leveled by Willie McGinest at about shoulder level and D'Qwell Jackson at the quarterback's knees. Roethlisberger's head struck the ground hard as McGinest, possibly playing his final NFL game, drove him backward.

Roethlisberger moved his arms and legs and was talking before being placed onto a stretcher and then onto a cart that took him off the field. His helmet was taken apart while he was on the field, a precautionary move so his neck could be stabilized, but hospital tests revealed no additional injuries.

"All tests are negative -- which is a positive," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We are optimistic of where he is going to be [in the playoffs]. The bye is going to be helpful in regards to that."

As he was being driven off the field, Roethlisberger lifted his left arm and raised his thumb to the fans. The gesture drew a loud cheer from a crowd that stayed silent during the nearly 15 minutes Roethlisberger stayed on the turf.

The Steelers players did not huddle in a group or begin saying prayers, as teams often do when they fear a serious injury, because their trainers kept relaying information to them.

"When it starts taking long, you start to get worried and think something's going on, but we got the update from the trainers that he had a concussion," linebacker Larry Foote said.

Running back Willie Parker said, "We were pretty sure he was all right. He was doing all of the things they asked him to do. He didn't have us in doubt or anything."

The Steelers, already locked into the No. 2 spot in the AFC's playoffs, could not improve their playoff position by beating the Browns. But Tomlin wanted Roethlisberger and the other starters to play most or part of the game -- the Steelers went on to win 31-0 -- because they won't play again until Jan. 10 or 11.

"It was a productive effort," Tomlin said.

Before getting hurt, Roethlisberger was 9-of-14 for 110 yards and an interception that came after Pittsburgh had driven to a first down at the Browns 20 late in the first quarter.

Heinz Field has a grass surface, which generally is more forgiving than artificial turf when a player's head strikes the ground.