But Hines Ward made it clear to NBC Sports before Sunday night's game that when it comes to a Steelers-Ravens game, he's not so sure that Ben Roethlisberger should have been thinking about his long-term health.
Roethlisberger was not cleared by Pittsburgh's doctors to play against Baltimore, but as Ward explains, there are ways around that.
There's a chance that Roethlisberger's decision to not play on Sunday night will cost the Steelers a playoff spot--if Pittsburgh could make it to overtime with Dennis Dixon at quarterback, it's fair to say that a Roethlisberger-led team would have been in good shape to pick up a win. Rationally, that's still a fair trade if you're Roethlisberger--he's already won two Super Bowl trophies and it's reasonable for any player to want to be able to remember his career (and his name) when he's in his 50s.
"I've lied to a couple of doctors saying 'I'm straight, I feel good,' when I knew I'm really not straight. But I don't think guys really about the future when they're playing currently in the NFL," Ward told Bob Costas, as transcribed by Pro Football Talk. "Trust me, the players, they wanna go out there because these games, you don't get back. You're never gonna get this Baltimore-Pittsburgh game back."
And from the standpoint of the franchise, Roethlisberger is the present and the future of the Steelers. Pittsburgh doesn't want to see Roethlisberger suffer a string of concussions that leads to an early retirement a la Troy Aikman or Steve Young.
But those arguments may not carry a lot of weight in the locker room, especially with players like Ward.
"This game is almost like a playoff game," Ward said. "It's almost a 'must' win. So, I can see some players or some teammates kind of questioning like, 'Well, it's just a concussion. I've played with concussions before. I would go out there and play.' So, it's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. You know, should he play, shouldn't he play. It's really hard to say."