Kansas City, Mo. Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t remember a whole lot about the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Steelers’ quarterback sustained a concussion when his head banged into the knee of Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson as he leaned headfirst during a running play in overtime. He came back to play some of his best games of the 2009 season afterward, twice throwing for three touchdowns without an interception and leading Pittsburgh to a second-place finish in the AFC North.
It certainly wasn’t the first time Big Ben was banged up.
There have been numerous concussions, several knee injuries, and a fractured thumb sustained a few weeks ago against Cincinnati. Roethlisberger plans to play tonight against Kansas City, even though he admitted it’ll be painful, and that’s dreadful news to the Chiefs.
Pittsburgh had last week off, giving Roethlisberger time to heal. But the thumb still bothered him in practice this week, and he worked mainly from the shotgun.
It would take a lot more than a banged up thumb to keep Roethlisberger out this week. The Steelers (7-3) are a half-game behind Baltimore (8-3) in the tough AFC North, with Cincinnati just a game back, heading into this week. They have a good opportunity to pick up a win on the road against the Chiefs (4-6), who have lost three straight and been ravaged by injuries all season, including an injury that knocked out quarterback Matt Cassel for the season.
Cassel’s replacement, journeyman Tyler Palko appeared comfortable despite throwing three interceptions in a 34-3 loss last week at New England, which earned him another start today. After that is anyone’s guess.
The Chiefs picked up Kyle Orton off waivers from the Broncos on Wednesday, but he couldn’t make it to Kansas City until Friday. That meant there was virtually no chance he could get up to speed in time to play today.
In the meantime, Palko is preparing to make the second start of his professional career. Playing the Steelers is especially meaningful for Palko because he grew up watching the Steelers, and even played at Heinz Field while he was leading the University of Pittsburgh.
“I’m fired up,” Palko said. “It was fun growing up in Pittsburgh, seeing the Steelers, the black and gold, understanding the tradition. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”