PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers keep insisting they can absorb the endless string of injuries to their most vital players, that they have the depth necessary to push for a playoff spot no matter who is — or isn't — in the lineup.
Pittsburgh escaped with a 38-35 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, winning it on Chris Boswell's 18-yard field goal with two seconds remaining. Yet even as Boswell's kick sailed through the uprights, franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was heading for an MRI on his injured left foot.
Pittsburgh (5-4) survived for an afternoon at least, overcoming a late rally by the Raiders (4-4) behind another steady performance in relief by backup Landry Jones and a franchise-record day by wide receiver Antonio Brown, who set club marks with 17 catches for 284 yards, including a 57-yard sprint on the final drive that set up Boswell's winner.
The Steelers were left at a loss themselves. The sight of your unquestioned leader hopping off the field midway through the fourth quarter will do that. Roethlisberger was in the midst of a spectacular second half when Oakland defensive end Aldon Smith landed on Roethlisberger's foot during a sack.
Roethlisberger laid on the turf for several minutes then gingerly made his way to the sideline, careful not to put any pressure on the same leg that forced him to miss a month earlier in the year because of a sprained left knee. He was taken to the trainer's room on a cart then whisked away for further evaluation, his locker empty by the time his teammates piled in after nearly four exhausting hours.
The Steelers are already without running back Le'Veon Bell, center Maurkice Pouncey and starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum. Those losses they might be able to survive. Roethlisberger, however, is another matter.
"I joke around with it," guard Ramon Foster said. "I say 'I don't know who [ticked] off the football gods, but they're definitely letting us have it this year with the injuries. We've got to stay the course."
Roethlisberger passed for 334 yards with two touchdowns and a pick, and moved past Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana and into 13th on the NFL list for career yards passing.