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Ben Roethlisberger to Andrew Luck: be smart ‘with your brain’

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 20: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As someone who has played through injuries throughout his career, Ben Roethlisberger expects Andrew Luck to be on the field Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts meet in Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Absolutely,” the Steelers’ durable and decorated quarterback said Tuesday in a conference call. “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to play.”

However, Roethlisberger stressed Luck’s overriding priority must be his health. Luck’s status for the game is uncertain after he suffered a concussion in Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans.

Roethlisberger’s long-distance advice to his cohort: Be smart.

“The brain is nothing to mess with,” he said. “He’s young and has a long career ahead of him.

“You have to prepare for him to play. If he does say he doesn’t feel ready to go out there, there will be no knock on him coming from me.”

Roethlisberger has established himself as one of the NFL’s tough guys. He’s 6-5, 240 pounds and routinely waits until the last second before delivering a pass. That often results in him absorbing unnecessary hits and sustaining an injury to some body part.

During his 13-year career, Roethlisberger has appeared in 180 regular-season games, but started all 16 games on only three occasions. His list of injuries is long and touches on virtually every area of his body: right shoulder, left knee, right knee, ribs, broken bone in his foot, Achilles’ tendon and on and on.

Roethlisberger only missed one game this season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Last season, he was forced out of the Seattle game after suffering a concussion on a hit by Michael Bennett.

“It was well-documented that in the Seattle game I got hit and I told the doctors about it and I came out of the game,” Roethlisberger said, adding in his earlier years he didn’t always admit when he “had been dinged or had a concussion.”

How many times has he been diagnosed with a concussion?

“I have no idea,” Roethlisberger said. “Maybe too many.”

He now regrets being so cavalier with his health. Old-school players used to brag about “throwing dirt” on an injury and remaining on the field.

“You can rub dirt on a lot of things,” Roethlisberger said. “You can’t rub dirt on the brain, so you’ve got to be smart about that. When you play this game long enough you’re bound to have injuries because it is a violent sport.

“You’ve got to be smart when it comes to your brain because you play football for such a short period of your life. When you’ve got a family and people you’re going to be with for long-term, you’ve got to really make sure your health is taken care of.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51