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Roethlisberger acknowledges injury affected him at the end of last year

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the injury he suffered in a Week 10 win over Kansas City affected him upon his return to the field for the team's last four games. The Steelers were 1-3 in those games, and Roethlisberger was a shell of the player who, over the first nine games, was playing at a Pro Bowl level.

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted to Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette that the shoulder injury he suffered in the Steelers' Week 10 win over Kansas City - the same one that kept him out of the team's next three games - affected him over the final quarter of the season. he Steelers went 1-3 in those games, missing out on the playoffs after the team rebounded from a slow start to stand at 6-3. They finished 2-5 both with and without Roethlisberger over their last seven games.

Roethlisberger was playing arguably the best he ever has in his eight-year career, but the freakish injury affected his arm strength, and, in his words, led to self-doubt over his throwing mechanics.

"Sometimes, certain passes just weren't right. I didn't trust myself to get enough zip on it to throw it out there. I tried to guide it too much instead of just throw it."

Bouchette quotes Roethlisberger as being optimistic about the current state of the team, but it's also the second time in as many seasons where the Steelers franchise quarterback would admit after the season he was more injured than he initially led on.

While it was written in this space prior to Roethlisberger's interview with Bouchette that he just didn't look right on the field at the end of last season, the same thing was said at the end of 2011, when it appeared his arm strength had fallen off considerably from where it was to start the year.

Clearly, something will need to be done to protect him - both from himself as well as the nasty pass rushes inside the AFC North - if he's going to lead this team late in the season. The fact he's been hurt enough to noticeably affect his play for two consecutive years is troubling, and 2013 could be a critical year in terms of the direction of the franchise.