PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger’s injured rib and sprained shoulder are getting better, but if the quarterback hopes to play Sunday when the Steelers travel to Baltimore, he’s got one more hurdle to cross – convincing head coach Mike Tomlin that he’s ready.
Roethlisberger was limited in practice again Thursday and it appears he’ll miss his third consecutive game.
But for the Steelers (6-5), that Roethlisberger is at least starting to think about playing is good news.
“I want to be out there no matter what, but not at the risk of hurting the team, if that makes sense,” Roethlisberger said Thursday. “I don’t want to go out there and play so badly, hurt the team and us not be good. It’s tough. It’s hard for me. You watched me during these games. I’ve been on the field more than most of the coaches because I’m just antsy to get out there. We’ll evaluate it, and ultimately it will come down to coach’s decision.”
Roethlisberger suffered a dislocated rib and sprained shoulder early in the second half of a 16-13 win overtime win over Kansas City Nov. 12. The rib injury was the more serious issue. Because of where the rib is located, it threatened to puncture vital organs, including Roethlisberger’s aorta.
The initial diagnosis was that the injury would take three to six weeks to heal. Roethlisberger, who said he still has some pain issues, has been given a clean bill of health by doctors, but now must work his way back to throwing the ball effectively.
“I can play through a lot of pain,” said Roethlisberger, who will wear Kevlar in his shoulder pads to help protect the injury.
“Mostly, it’s just (about) ability. Can I make a long throw? Can I put a lot of zip on the ball, throw it really hard before people like (Baltimore safety) Ed Reed and defenders can get to the ball? Because if I can’t, then I’m not putting this team in the best situation to win the game.”
If Roethlisberger does not play against the Ravens (9-2), the Steelers will turn to Charlie Batch for the second consecutive week as they try to stay alive in the AFC playoff race. Batch completed 20 of 34 passes for 199 yards in last week’s 20-14 loss at Cleveland, but also threw three second-half interceptions.
“I have to play better,” Batch said. “It’s something I can do. ... I just have to figure out a way to get us into the end zone.”
Batch made one start last year after Roethlisberger suffered a sprained ankle Dec. 8 against Cleveland. Roethlisberger attempted to play through the pain the following week in a loss at San Francisco, but was obviously hobbled as he was sacked three times and threw three interceptions. Batch started the following week, leading the Steelers to a 27-0 win over St. Louis.
“We’ve had people talk about last year in San Francisco, (that) if I would have rested maybe I would have been better off the last couple games,” Roethlisberger said. “To me, I live for the here and now and I’m going to do everything I can to be out there. If it doesn’t work, I’ll do everything I can to be out there next week.
Odds and end zones
Left tackle Max Starks was back at practice after sitting out Wednesday. … Guard Willie Colon, offensive tackle Mike Adams, quarterback Byron Leftwich and nose tackle Casey Hampton did not practice. … In addition to Roethlisberger, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was limited. … Wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Troy Polamalu both made it through a full practice for the second consecutive day.