If Ben Roethlisberger is going to help turn the Pittsburgh Steelers around, he's going to have to do it on one foot.
The quarterback underwent an MRI on his left foot Monday following a 17-10 loss to Houston. His status for Sunday's game against surprising Tennessee (3-1) remains uncertain.
Roethlisberger injured the foot in the fourth quarter but stayed on the field until the final seconds. He wore a protective boot while gingerly making his way out of the locker room.
If he plays — and Roethlisberger insists he will do everything in his power to be on the field — it won't be the first time he's given it a go with a bad wheel. He played the second half of the 2010 season with a broken bone in his right foot and managed to lead Pittsburgh to the AFC title.
"We saw I had to do that last year, I casted up my foot for the last half of the year," he said. "If we have to do it, I'll do it."
The Titans are expecting Roethlisberger to play, boot or not boot.
"We all know what he's accomplished and what a great player he's been in this league and how he's played with injuries," said coach Mike Munchak. "We're assuming he's going to be healthy and ready to go."
Pittsburgh (2-2) certainly needs him under centre. If Roethlisberger can't start then 36-year-old Charlie Batch would get the nod against the Titans.
While Batch helped the Steelers to a 3-1 record at the beginning of last season — including a 19-11 win over Tennessee —while Roethlisberger served a suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, he did it behind an offensive line with some semblance of stability.
This year there are no such luxuries.
Injuries to tackles Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott and guard Doug Legursky have forced the Steelers to start four different offensive line combination in as many games.
None of the have clicked.
Roethlisberger has spent the first quarter of the season under siege, getting sacked 14 times and knocked around others. The three biggest hits he's absorbed this season came on plays in which he got the ball out before getting punished. Twice he's been drilled in the knees by defensive linemen after releasing the pass and on Sunday his foot got crunched during Pittsburgh's penultimate possession.
That didn't stop him from returning to the game for a last-gasp drive and ending up completing 16 of 30 for 206 yards and a pick.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace, shut down in the second half, didn't notice a difference in Roethlisberger's presence other than the noticeable limp with which he walked to the line of scrimmage.
"He was his usual self — still trying to make plays, still trying to get guys going," Wallace said. "But we just didn't getit done."
On either side of the ball.
Only a pair of Houston touchdown returns called back — one a blocked field goal, the other an interception — kept the game close.
The Texans dominated long stretches, including a club-record 19-play, 95-yard drive to start the game. Arian Foster rushed for 155 yards, the most the Steelers have given up to a single player since Curtis Martin ran for 174 yards against them in 2003.
Linebacker James Harrison, who missed part of the game with an eye injury, wasn't in the mood to take any solace in the fact the Steelers kept it close during a game in which they were thoroughly outplayed.
"We played like garbage, period," Harrison said. "We stink right now."
There's time to turn it around, though the way the Steelers have lost decisively to a pair of AFC contenders is cause for alarm.
"We were just missing a whole bunch of tackles, and we've got to go back to the basics and figure out how to get people down," defensive tackle Casey Hampton said. "It's uncharacteristic of us."
The running game showed signs of life, but isn't 100 per cent either.
Rashard Mendenhall went out with a hamstring injury and missed the fourth quarter. Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore provided a boost, but Moore was walking around the team's practice facility on Monday in a boot of his own.
The backs could be more important than ever if Roethlisberger can't play. The two-time Super Bowl winner, however, hopes it doesn't come to that.
"You know me, if I can be out there, I'm going to be out there," he said. "That's for next week too."