When he went down and stayed down late in the second quarter of the Steelers' Thursday night hosting of the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger initially thought his leg was broken.
"It was one of the most painful things I've ever felt," Roethlisberger said.
Fortunately for Roethlisberger and the Steelers, X-rays came back negative. The diagnosis was a high-ankle sprain, not a break.
Roethlisberger was able to re-enter the game. He started the second half and finished what became a 14-3 Steelers' triumph with a 79-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Antonio Brown that sealed the deal late and spared Roethlisberger additional pain and suffering.
"I'm glad he scored, because I wouldn't have made it all the way down there if we had to run another play," Roethlisberger said.
The touchdown pass, Roethlisberger's second of the game, finished off a 16-for-21, 280-yard performance as well as the Browns.
Although he had no mobility in the second half and admitted to abandoning "all my rules and techniques" on handoffs, Roethlisberger was determined to finish what he'd started.
"I don't want to let my guys down," he said. "I was going to give it a go and be out there as best I could."
His teammates were as appreciative of Roethlisberger's effort as they were relieved to survive Cleveland. A sampling:
Brown: "Man, he exemplifies toughness, an amazing quarterback to play with, he's special. He wouldn't let us down. He came out of the locker room, sucked it up, taped it up, I mean, that guy's a pro, man. I'm just grateful to play with a quarterback such as him."
Offensive tackle Max Starks: "The way that he got up and they walked him straight back into the tunnel (to the locker room), in my mind I was prepared for him to be done. Ben has come back from almost every single type of injury. He's a warrior. He's a battle-tested guy. To watch him come back and his resilience is just amazing and makes every one of us on the offensive side of the ball fight that much harder."
Tight end Heath Miller: "I was a little bit surprised when I saw him coming back in the second half. But when I step back and think about it, it doesn't really surprise me. He's going to be there as long as he's walking, and we appreciate that from him."
Guard Doug Legursky: "His toughness is unparalleled. For him to come back the way he did I wouldn't want any other quarterback behind us."
And finally, defensive end Brett Keisel: "He's the toughest guy around. You could see how he was hobbling around out there. We came in here, we didn't see him during halftime. I think everyone was kind of getting ready to go out without him. And then we get out there and he's taking snaps. People want to hate on him, but the guy's one of the toughest competitors in this game."
The decision to stick with Roethlisberger in the second half was ultimately Coach Mike Tomlin's call.
"The doctors said he was OK to go," Tomlin said. "He wanted to go. I will always give him an opportunity to show what he is capable of. We know what kind of competitor he is. We know his pain tolerance. We know what he's capable of."