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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Ben Roethlisberger's admission to Sports Illustrated that he played with fractured ribs in Super Bowl XLIII should tell the Pittsburgh Steelers one thing: He needs more protection this offseason.
Add broken ribs to the list of injuries Roethlisberger suffered throughout the 2008 title run, including a sprained shoulder, injured thumb, concussion and hand injury. That's five ailments for a $102-million quarterback in one season. He cannot take that kind of beating again if Pittsburgh wants Roethlisberger to last the duration of his eight-year deal.
Sure, Roethlisberger has a penchant for holding the football too long in an effort to make big plays. His backyard style is what makes him unique yet also leads to a lot of hits.
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But that's even more of a reason to bolster and put money into Pittsburgh's front five. It will be up to the team -- either through the draft or free agency -- to find offensive linemen good enough and mobile enough to fit Roethlisberger's style.
This is a good time for Pittsburgh to do a major overhaul. Four offensive linemen, including tackles Max Starks and Marvel Smith, will become unrestricted free agents. A fifth lineman in tackle/guard Willie Colon will be a restricted free agent.
The Steelers are not a free-spending organization. But if they spend significant money on anything this offseason, it should be on remaking the offensive line.
Roethlisberger, and his fractured ribs, will be thankful.
UPDATE [5:10 p.m.]: The Steelers are saying they had no knowledge of the rib injury to Roethlisberger.
"There's not a whole lot to say," Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said Monday. "Ben was fine to go. He was cleared to play. He didn't miss any [practice] time. There was no doubt he was going to play."