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Ben Roethlisberger's Shocking Second-Half Return Cements Status as One Game's All-Time Tough Guys and Competitors

We've got 11 days until the Pittsburgh Steelers next play in Week 15, so we'll have ample time to break down their odd 14-3 win over the Cleveland Browns Friday, this weekend, and into next week. We're running behind on our posgame coverage already, but let's keep it siple and focused to start, and make sure we isolate what was truly a special performance by one of the greatest warriors the game of football has ever seen at the quarterback position. Sound overly dramatic? Maybe my word choice could have been more dry, but the reality is we're watching Ben Roethlisberger do ridiculous things as the quarterback of the Steelers. Not just all the wins, mind you. But the way he continues to suck it up and refuse to cry uncle no matter how many hits he takes, nor how hard they might sting.

Make no mistake about it, Big Ben was in pain. So much in fact that he thought he had broken his leg when ihe initially writhed in pain on the ground after being sacked:

"It was one of the most painful things I ever felt," Roethlisberger said. "It felt like the middle of my leg was just, cracked ... it felt like my foot was outside of my leg."

It's still not clear if Roethlisberger will be forced to sit out one or more games down the stretch, but when X-rays at halftime revealed no breaks, Big Ben opted to play, perhaps convincing himself that he was only making the sound medical decision to keep it active rather than swelling up:

"Doctors said 'Just keep moving,"' Roethlisberger said. "As we kept going they said, 'Just keep moving' because it literally felt like it was about to explode."

I actually said as much at the bar when my company asked why he would possibly be playing with such a bad limp. Really though, he was just delaying the inevitable, no? Did the foot feel any better after the game after refusing to shut it down and absorbing more hits? Obviously not. But like the battler and team player that he is, Roethlisberger didn't think about the pain he'd be dealing with later, only making it through the game and ensuring his team didn't drop an inexcusable home game to the Browns when so much was still at stake for the team's goals in 2011.

If you re-watch the injury, you'd join me in a big, deep sigh of relief as we counted our lucky stars that he's not looking at reconstructive knee surgery. When he went down after a sack in the second quarter, I thought on first view that he maybe blew out ligaments in his knee. Not having the volume on at the bar I was at didn't much help -- I couldn't hear the commentators or sideline reporters mention that it appeared to just be a nasty ankle injury. I suppose that became clear in the final minutes of the first half when Ben Roethlisberger limped into the locker room under his own power. That in itself hinted that he had not in fact torn an ACL, only sprained or perhaps broken his ankle. I say 'only broken' and that's a tad callous, but the bottom line is it's a huge relief the man didn't have his knee twisted deleteriously.

Happy enough that he hadn't busted his knee up, I was certainly shocked and delighted to return from the bar to see Ben Roethlisberger under center to start the second half. You can not keep this man down. Period. Roethlisberger probably should have takent he rest of the night off, but hey, maybe being inactive would have just caused it to swell up more quickly than it otherwise might have. More likely though, Big Ben just refused to err on the side of caution knowing he could play when it really came down to it.

Roethlisberger wasn't perfect in the second half, but he was damn close. His interception was ill-advised, but it was really the only mistake he made on the night, outside of him not throwing the ball away on the play in which he was injured, of course. .All told, he more than did enough to help his team win against a feisty Browns defense that opportunistically created turnovers just when it appeared as if the Steelers were going to take firm control of the game. By game's end though, Big Ben finished with 280 yards on 16-of-21 passing, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. In addition to that pick, one of his five total misfires came on a drop by Antonio Brown.

Forget about the tender ankle affecting his accuracy. That's a mighty fine day at the office throwing the football. Roethlisberger's final yardage numbers were obviously aided by Antonio Brown's sensational 79 yard score on what should have been no more than a 18-23 yard gain. But even if you hack off 50 yards from his final total in Week 14, we're still talking about one hell of a performance by a once-in-a-generation quarterback that still does not get all the due he's deserved.

To conclude, if you think I'm being a bit too effusive in my praise considering the offense only mustered 14 points, don't forget that Hines Ward and Heath Miller both fumbled deep inside Cleveland territory in the first half. Pittsburgh was cruising down the field and likely to score at least 6 -- and perhaps 14 -- on those drives if not for the uncharacteristic fumbles by the two sure-handed veterans. What can you do? Also, don't forget Big Ben led the Steelers down the field quickly for what should have been at least 3 points in the second half, only to run the same play four times in a row along the goal line, and subsequently surrender possession on downs on the 1 without padding their 7-3 lead.

More on all that later, but for now, a Steeler Nation salute to Ben Roethlisberger for continuing to win games and wow us in the process with not just his ability to throw the football, but also with his unrivaled ability to put pain out of his mind in order to stay on the field and lead his team. The results continue to pay off, which for better or worse I suppose only means he'll continue taking those chances in the future.