The video of Jerome Bettis trying to walk down the steps during the 2004 season is embedded in most Steelers fans memories. As Bettis hobbled his way down the stairs with giant ice packs on both knee joints, he knows a thing or two about the abuse the NFL life has on the human body.
When speaking to the media prior to the Steelers' Thursday Night Football game against the Baltimore Ravens, where Bettis was receiving his Hall of Fame ring at halftime, he gave some advice to Ben Roethlisberger as he recovers from a sprained MCL and bone bruise in his left knee.
"I would tell him to be patient," Bettis said, per Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times.
Bettis fully understands the impact of playing when injured, as well as coming back too early from injury and the impact it can not only have on your body, but also on the team.
Bettis re-told the story of him returning from a severe groin injury in 2001, which had sidelined him for 8 weeks. He played in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, but was highly ineffective rushing for just 8 yards on 9 carries throughout the game. It was after the game Bettis realized his approach was not a wise decision.
"I really couldn't play," Bettis said. "As I go back, I really say to myself I really did my team a disservice because I took a spot when somebody else could have helped us, should have been out on the field. My message to Ben would be to be patient and come back when you're healthy. Coming back when you're not healthy (it) not only hurts yourself but the team."
Experts suggest Roethlisberger's timeline to return from injury most likely would be around the 4 week range, but much of that comes down to pain tolerance. Bettis' comments should ring true to Roethlisberger, especially if the team is able to win in his absence. Steelers fans have seen Roethlisberger return from injury too early, and the product on the field is far from what is usually seen from the Pro Bowl signal caller.
The Steelers' medical staff will certainly make sure Roethlisberger isn't at further risk of injury when he decides he is healthy enough to return to the playing field, but his play on the field will also have to be put into consideration as the Steelers' schedule can't afford a series of let downs if they want to win the AFC North for the second consecutive season.
Patience, as Bettis said, might be the perfect elixir for Roethlisberger and his potential return.