PITTSBURGH – If the Steelers are going to jump into first place in the AFC North with a win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, they are likely going to have to do so without the services of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday Roethlisberger sprained the sternoclavicular (SC) joint in his right shoulder while being sacked early in the third quarter of Monday night’s 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City at Heinz Field, leaving him questionable to play against the Ravens.
Roethlisberger injured his shoulder while being sacked by Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston and immediately went to team trainers. He was taken to a Pittsburgh area hospital later in the evening and underwent an MRI Tuesday.
Veteran backup Byron Leftwich replaced Roethlisberger against the Chiefs, completing 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards.
Tomlin said Leftwich would get the start against the Ravens over fellow backup Charlie Batch if Roethlisberger is unable to play.
“I’m not worried about the capabilities of either man,” said Tomlin of Leftwich and Batch. “If called upon, they proven, veteran players. They’re capable of performing in whatever offense or whatever personality we choose to have. More than anything, if either play, obviously this week’s preparation will be big, and having an opportunity to take snaps and prepare will be big.”
The SC joint connects the clavicle to the sternum. It is the only bony joint linking the bones of the arm and shoulder to the main part of the skeleton.
It is an uncommon injury in sports, with most SC joint injuries coming in car accidents. But it also is the injury that ended Brett Favre’s consecutive games played streak at 297 games in 2010.
Typically, such an injury takes a minimum of three weeks to heal, but it also can take up to three months if surgery is not required. If surgery is required, the healing process can be even longer.
“I don’t deal on levels of concern and things of that nature,” said Tomlin. “I focus my energy on the healthy ones and their preparedness.”
Since taking over as the Steelers’ starter in Week 3 of 2004, Roethlisberger has missed 13 games. The Steelers are 8-5 in those games, but 0-4 against Baltimore. With Roethlisberger in the starting lineup against Baltimore, the Steelers are 9-4, including a pair of playoff wins.
Pittsburgh (6-3) plays the Ravens (7-2) twice in the next three weeks.
“If he can’t go, Byron Leftwich will be ready to go,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer. “We believe in him. He’s won a lot of games in his career. If he was anywhere else, he would be starting. He’s sacrificed to be here. That just shows what a good man he is.”
Not only will the Steelers likely not have Roethlisberger this week, but it also appears strong safety Troy Polamalu will miss his sixth consecutive game with a calf injury.
The Steelers had hoped to have Polamalu back this week, but he was unable to practice at all last week and Tomlin said he is doubtful to play against the Ravens.
The news was slightly better for wide receiver Antonio Brown, who sat out Monday with an ankle sprain, and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, who has missed the past four games with an ankle injury.
Both are questionable to play against the Ravens, but could be back if they can get on the practice field by Friday.
Free safety Ryan Clark, who suffered a head injury late in the fourth quarter against Kansas City – his second in three weeks - will have to pass concussion tests to play.
“I saw him,” said Tomlin. “He appears to be fine. We will see where the evaluation process takes us during the week.”
Odds and end zones
Running back Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) also is questionable, but began practicing last week. ... Monday night’s win improved the Steelers to 4-0 at home this season. Baltimore (5-0), Seattle (5-0) and Atlanta (4-0) are the only other teams unbeaten at home. ... The Steelers are now 12-2-1 in overtime at home and 23-17-2 overall. ... The Steelers limited the Chiefs to 148 net yards passing, the fourth game in a row they have held an opponent under 170 net passing yards. The Steelers now have a streak of 32 consecutive games holding opponents under 300 net passing yards.