In light of Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury that is believed to be a sprained AC joint, I reached out to ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell to get a few thoughts on the Steelers quarterback's next few days.
Here are three things Roethlisberger can expect with this injury entering Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game against the Broncos at Mile High Stadium on Sunday (4:40 p.m. ET).
Pain depends on the grade: AC sprains range from Grades 1-3. Bell suspects Roethlisberger didn't suffer a Grade 3 sprain, because if he had, returning to Saturday's game against the Bengals as he did would have been incredibly difficult. A Grade 1 or 2 sprain is still painful, but there is less shoulder separation and more mobility. "It's really a matter of pain tolerance," Bell said.
Swelling and pinching: This injury causes pinching at the top of the shoulder when trying to lift the arm above the head, which is crucial for any quarterback. The key barometer for Roethlisberger this week is when (or if) he can come "over the top" on his throws, Bell said. While Bell believes Roethlisberger can make progress before Sunday, she said, "The question becomes, how effective can he be?" The Steelers could condense the offense if Roethlisberger can't go deep. If the swelling subsides later in the week, that should help Roethlisberger's discomfort while throwing.
Playing through discomfort: In 12 years, Roethlisberger has played through many injuries and never missed more than four games at a time. That's why Bell thinks there's little chance Roethlisberger doesn't play through this one. "You look at his history; he's highly functional even when he's not 100 percent," Bell said.