PITTSBURGH – As it turns out, the injury to the SC joint in Ben Roethlisberger’s right shoulder was the least of his troubles.
The Steelers quarterback also suffered a dislocated rib while being sacked in the third quarter of Monday night’s 16-13 overtime victory against Kansas City, an injury that had doctors and Roethlisberger concerned.
“From what I understand, it is the SC joint and a dislocation of the first rib,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday as he spoke to reporters with his right arm in an immobilizing sling. “That’s more of the scary part because if it goes in the wrong direction, it can puncture the aorta. That’s more of the issue.”
Because of that, Roethlisberger will not play in Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Byron Leftwich, who has spent four of the past five seasons with the Steelers, will make his first start for Pittsburgh (6-3) against the Ravens (7-2).
Leftwich, a 10-year veteran, will be backed up by Charlie Batch, who is in his 15th season.
Leftwich knows that some are already writing the Steelers off without their franchise quarterback, but he’s not willing to do that just yet.
“This is not Bad News Bears,” Leftwich said of the Steelers.
The last time the Steelers were without Roethlisberger for multiple games was for the first four weeks of the 2010 season, when he was suspended by the NFL. Pittsburgh went 3-1 with Dennis Dixon then Batch at quarterback.
The only loss was a 17-14 defeat to Baltimore in Week 4.
How long the Steelers are forced to play without their franchise quarterback this time is anyone’s guess.
The injury occurred on a play that didn’t look violent compared to other hits the quarterback has taken during his career.
“When I hit the ground, I felt something not right, a crunch, crack kind of thing. It’s hard to explain,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t know if it was the hit or the landing, but I know it felt it most on the landing.”
Roethlisberger doesn’t expect the injury to end his season, but with seven weeks remaining in the regular season and the Steelers in the middle of a playoff race, he’s also not sure when he’s coming back.
“I’m not a medical expert,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m just going to do what I can to get back as fast as I can.”
The question is whether that will be soon enough for the already banged up Steelers.
All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu is expected to miss his sixth consecutive game with a torn calf muscle, and Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown is questionable with a sprained ankle that kept him out of Monday night’s win over Kansas City.
Brown said he will try to practice Friday to have a chance to play against Baltimore.
The Steelers will need as many healthy bodies as possible for their showdown with the Ravens. Though they are 8-5 without Roethlisberger in the lineup since he became a starter in the third game of the 2004 season, the Steelers are 0-4 against the Ravens without him in that time span.
Roethlisberger, who owns a 9-4 record as a starter against the Ravens, is in the midst of one of his best seasons, ranking sixth in the league with a 100.0 passer rating, throwing for 2,287 yards with 17 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
“(My heart) is not really broken, but with a rivalry game, you need all of the pieces for the game to be how it should be,” said Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs of playing the Steelers without Roethlisberger. “It’s a little disappointing, but you have to move on.”
Roethlisberger feels the same way.
“I’m disappointed, too,” he said. “It’s tough, especially playing these guys.”
Odds and end zones
Safety Ryan Clark, who suffered a head injury against Kansas City, was cleared for practice, but was limited Wednesday. Clark, who has suffered head injuries in two of the past three games, is changing helmets to better protect against concussions. Also limited in practice were cornerback Curtis Brown (quad) and cornerback Ike Taylor (illness). Running back Rashard Mendenhall, who missed the past four games with a sore Achilles’ tendon, was a full participant in practice and is expected to play against Baltimore. In addition to Brown and Polamalu, those sitting out included defensive end Brett Keisel (shoulder), offensive tackle Max Starts (ankle) and linebacker Chris Carter (stomach).