PITTSBURGH – If Ben Roethlisberger is going to play for the Steelers this weekend, then he has to show head coach Mike Tomlin that he’s healthy enough to be effective.
Tomlin said Tuesday that Roethlisberger successfully threw again Monday as he attempts to return from rib and shoulder injuries that have sidelined him the last three games.
But the true test for Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback will be completing practices as the Steelers (7-5) prepare to play the Chargers (4-8) Sunday at Heinz Field.
“We’ll see what it looks like on the football field,” said Tomlin. “He’ll be given an opportunity to prove he is healthy. In the meanwhile, Charlie (Batch) is our guy. We’ll prepare and plan with that in mind, just like we did a week ago.”
Roethlisberger was cleared to resume throwing last week, but wasn’t ready to play in the Steelers’ 23-20 win at Baltimore. The Steelers expect that Roethlisberger to play against San Diego, but are making contingency plans for Batch as well.
Batch made his second consecutive start Sunday. The Steelers were beaten, 20-14 at Cleveland Nov. 25, in Batch’s first start in place of Roethlisberger. Batch threw three interceptions and the Steelers lost five fumbles at Cleveland. But the 15-year-veteran, who celebrates his 38th birthday today, rebounded against the Ravens, passing for 276 yards and a touchdown in leading Pittsburgh in a fourth-quarter comeback.
“We’re happy for and proud of Charlie,” said Tomlin. “He made all of the necessary plays for us not only physically, but emotionally. He was solid throughout (and) did an awesome job communicating.”
If Roethlisberger shows he is ready to play, then he will start against the Chargers. Tomlin said there is an opportunity for Batch to start.
“It depends on what the week tells us,” said Tomlin. “It would be premature to make those judgments until we see what (Roethlisberger) looks like throwing the football in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 settings.
“Obviously, Ben is our quarterback and if he’s capable of playing, then we’re going to play him.”
The news was not as good for Ike Taylor, who was injured on the second play of the game against the Ravens. Taylor suffered a hairline fracture in his right ankle that will end his consecutive games played streak at 135, the longest current streak for any NFL cornerback.
“You can say a lot of things about Ike, and a lot of positive things, but probably the thing that sticks out the most is his durability and availability,” said Tomlin. “This guy hasn’t missed practices, let alone football games, since I’ve been here. We’re in a unique territory in that regard.”
With Taylor out, the Steelers will turn to Cortez Allen to replace him, as they did in Baltimore, with fellow second-year cornerback Curtis Brown playing on passing downs in the nickel defense.
“They’re both talented young guys who are continuing to improve and prove that the stage isn’t too big for them,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, we need them to answer the bell as we continue to push into a territory that we haven’t been in since I’ve been here.”
Odds and end zones
Fullback Will Johnson suffered a concussion against the Ravens but has passed preliminary tests and is expected to play against the Chargers. … In addition to Taylor, right tackle Mike Adams (ankle) is expected to miss the game. … The Steelers expect to have guard Willie Colon and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery back this week. Both players have missed the last two games with injuries. … Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) is questionable to play. ... Tomlin said he expected to use the same running back rotation this week, with Jonathan Dwyer starting and Isaac Redmanas the backup. Former starter Rashard Mendenhall was inactive Sunday despite being healthy.