Another week, another injury for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger said yesterday his right thumb injury "is pretty painful," but he is hopeful it won't severely affect his throwing in Sunday's key AFC North game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The injury, not disclosed until Wednesday, follows injuries to both knees that kept Roethlisberger out of four games. Coach Bill Cowher also said Roethlisberger "tweaked" his ankle during a 26-7 loss to Indianapolis on Monday night, but that injury was not listed on the team's first injury report of the week.

That report, issued Wednesday afternoon, was the first disclosure of any thumb injury.

Roethlisberger, who is listed as probable, said the injury is painful enough that trainers designed a protective device so he can throw in practice. "A couple of contraptions hopefully will help it."

Asked how and when the injury occurred, Roethlisberger said, "I can't go into the extent of the injury, but it is pretty painful and it's not something that's fun to have."

Roethlisberger may have played in both Steelers playoff games last season with an injured thumb, although neither he nor the team confirmed it. However, TV cameras caught Roethlisberger clutching his thumb during a playoff game against the New York Jets in which he threw two interceptions. Asked afterward about a thumb injury, Roethlisberger said, "I'm not going to make excuses."

ESPN Suspends Irvin

Michael Irvin said he has been suspended by ESPN for one week for not telling the network about his arrest last week, when police found a drug pipe hidden in his car during a traffic stop.

Irvin, who has maintained that the pipe belonged to a friend, told the Associated Press yesterday that he won't return to the air until Dec. 11. He was arrested last Friday in Plano, Tex., for an outstanding warrant on an unpaid speeding ticket but was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia after police searched his car.

ESPN did not learn of Irvin's arrest until reporters began calling the network Sunday night. Irvin said he didn't tell the network about his arrest because he was scared.

"I was just scared, hoping and praying that maybe it would go away," Irvin said. "I was told that I paid the fine and it was over. I was hoping it was over."

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said the network doesn't comment on specific personnel records. Irvin, a former wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys and a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said he had no problem with the suspension.

"Being an employee and not giving them the information, certainly it's fair," Irvin said.