By the time he returned, the Pittsburgh Steelers trailed 16-15.
Roethlisberger left at the end of the third quarter after a sack by linebacker Vontaze Burfict injured his throwing shoulder. Backup Landry Jones led two fruitless drives and the Steelers watched their lead melt away on big Bengals plays.
With Big Ben back on the sidelines watching, Mike Tomlin sent Jones out for a third series despite trailing. The backup quarterback was immediately picked off by Burfict.
This time Tomlin turned to Roethlisberger, injured or not. (There will certainly be questions about why if Big Ben was healthy enough to play, he wasn't back earlier.)
Despite not being able to throw with potency, Roethlisberger did his best Willis Reed impersonation. He completed short passes and used the Steelers' final three timeouts to march across the 50-yard-line. The quarterback completed 5 of 7 passes on the final drive, including a 12-yard toss to Antonio Brown on fourth down with 22 seconds remaining.
On the subsequent play, Roethlisberger whipped a pass across the middle to Brown, who was blown up by Burfict on an illegal hit. An additional personal foul penalty on Bengals corner Adam Jones put the Steelers in position to kick a chip-shot field goal to provide the 18-16 winning margin.
No one questions Big Ben's toughness or willingness to put his body in harm's way. Saturday's gutsy performance to help lead his team to victory -- with the aid of another Bengals implosion -- is just the latest chapter in Roethlisberger's career-long digest of playing through pain.