PITTSBURGH - It was a dark and stormy night - and almost a horrible one for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They headed in Monday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field with two goals: Beat a dispirited 1-7 opponent, and make sure no one got hurt in advance of Sunday night's first-place showdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
They accomplished only one of the goals. Shaun Suisham's 23-yard overtime field goal gave them the 16-13 victory, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the game in the opening minutes of the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
Lawrence Timmons returns an interception for the Steelers in overtime.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Roethlis-berger was sandwiched between tacklers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and his shoulder was crunched under both players when he went to the turf. Roethlisberger left the field favoring his shoulder and soon disappeared down the steps to the locker room.
ESPN cameras caught him riding a cart away from the locker room, and ESPN later reported that Roethlisberger and his wife left the stadium and were headed to a hospital.
After the game, coach Mike Tomlin said that Roethlisberger's shoulder was being evaluated and that he had no further information.
Byron Leftwich, who had played just once in the last three years, was forced to take over at quarterback, and that was as dicey a proposition as might have been expected.
Then again, it's not like the Steelers offense was exactly humming with Roethlisberger at the controls.
It was a shaky night all around for the Steelers, who were just a week removed from beating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on their own turf. This time, they looked like the uncertain team they were at the start of the season.
The Steelers extended their winning streak to four games, but it was a struggle all night.
They couldn't have won without the thorough cooperation of the Chiefs, a bad team that played badly. Quarterback Matt Cassel's incompetence was one of the Steelers' best assets.
Cassel converted a big fourth down to send the game to overtime, but then launched an ill-advised and wobbly pass that Lawrence Timmons was able to leap and intercept to set up the winning field goal. Timmons' play compensated for Ike Taylor's getting beat on the fourth down pass.
"It wasn't a pretty body of work by any of us," Tomlin said.
The Chiefs had an apparent touchdown called back when replay proved that Leftwich's loss of the ball was an incomplete pass rather than a fumble. But, because they're the Chiefs, they still managed to give the Steelers 15 yards and a first down by excessively celebrating a touchdown that didn't even count. Stuff like that is how you build a 1-7 (now 1-8) record that will surely get people fired.
Having survived Kansas City, the focus can finally turn to the first of two games against the Ravens in a three-week span. The Steelers' ability to handle that challenge on their home turf probably hinges on Roethlisberger's availability.
Until this point, much had been made about how revisions in the Steelers' offensive strategy had been vital in keeping Roethlisberger healthy. Normally by midseason he's dealing with at least one lingering injury issue.
But he headed into Monday's game in good shape. Then he left the game in the third quarter, apparently headed for an MRI. As Tomlin is fond of saying, such is life in the NFL.
The game against the Chiefs was scary enough. The possibility of facing the Ravens without Roethlisberger?
That's positively frightening.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org