Midway through the first half of the Steelers-Ravens AFC Championship game, fans watching got a shock that could have spelled doom for the Steelers Super Bowl run.
Byron Leftwich was warming up on the sidelines, and "Big Ben" Roethlisberger was on the stairs to the locker room, grimacing in pain and receiving attention from two trainers.
Roethlisberger had been the victim of a solid hit to his lower back a few plays earlier, and it appeared to be giving him some serious problems bending and breathing.
This was not good; the Steelers were already minus Hines Ward, who had left the game earlier with a knee injury that he couldn't shake. The Ravens were shutting down the Steelers' rushing attack, and Lima Sweed, the No. 4 receiver who was in for Ward, appeared to have a force field around his hands that pushed balls away from him as he tried to catch them.
If Ben was out, the Ravens were likely to eat Leftwich for dinner. He's a solid backup, but this wasn't just any game. This was the game to get to the Super Bowl.
Apparently surprising even the announcers, though, Roethlisberger was back in the game on the next series, and calmly led the Steelers to victory and Super Bowl XLIII.
In doing so, Roethlisberger not only solidified his place as one of the toughest quarterbacks to play the game in the modern era, he reached a couple more milestones that should earn him a berth in Canton one day.
With the victory he surpassed Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman for second most playoff wins in the first five years as a pro, now trailing only Tom Brady by one win. With a Super Bowl victory, Brady and Roethlisberger will be tied for the record.
He reached his second Super Bowl in the first five years of his NFL career, trailing only Tom Brady, who achieved the feat in 2001, 2003, and 2004. With a win, he will hold second place all-time for most Super Bowl wins in the first five years of a career.
With a Super Bowl win, Roethlisberger will be the quarterback who led the Steelers to an NFL-record sixth Super Bowl victory by a franchise.
With only five years in the league, he is ranked in the top ten all-time in passer rating.
He's no Joe Montana, no Steve Young, no John Elway. But he doesn't have to be.
All he has to be is Ben Roethlisberger, and that is enough.
His ability to create plays outside the pocket are unmatched in the game by active quarterbacks. Defenses know that if they give him too much time or let him get outside the pocket, he's more likely to beat them than not.
Let him take off running, and it's going to take more than one guy to bring him down.
If Roethlisberger leads the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XLIII, haters take note—he will be in the Hall one day, and he will go down in history as one of the greats in the game.