Determination could come as soon as today

December 6, 2012
Ben Roethlisberger stands on the sidelines wearing a sling on his injured arm during the second quarter of a game against the Baltimore Ravens Nov. 18. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers had a lengthy list of players who did not participate in practice on Wednesday thanks to the various aches and pains of playing 12 NFL games.

But all eyes were on one player who was making a return to practice.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was back on the field Wednesday for the first time since suffering shoulder and rib injuries early in the second half of an overtime win over Kansas City Nov. 12.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he needed to see Roethlisberger, who missed three games, make all the necessary throws before he would make any determination on the quarterback’s status for the Steelers’ game Sunday at Heinz Field against San Diego (4-8).

Tomlin’s impressions of what he saw Wednesday?

“I thought it was a positive day for Ben,” Tomlin said. “He threw the ball around both vertically and horizontally. I thought the ball had good velocity, particularly in a few instances.

“Obviously, we’ll see how his body responds to it (Thursday) but I thought today was a good step.”

Roethlisberger said he felt good after the session and hopes to be on the field against the Chargers.

“I want to be out there,” said Roethlisberger, who has led the Steelers to a 6-3 record in games he’s started this season. “I’ve wanted to be out there for a couple of weeks now. When it is time, and my body says go and coach Tomlin says go, I will be ready to go.”

Now would be a perfect time for the Steelers (7-5) as they head down the home stretch.

The Steelers are currently tied with Cincinnati for the sixth and final spot in the AFC playoffs. Both teams currently sit two games behind Baltimore (9-3) in the AFC North race, but the Ravens finish the season against teams who own a combined 29-19 record.

The Steelers host Cincinnati Dec. 23, while the Bengals host the Ravens to close out the season.

Pittsburgh went 1-2 without Roethlisberger in the lineup, with the one win being a 23-20 victory orchestrated by Charlie Batch over the Ravens in Baltimore this past Sunday.

Batch, who turned 38 Wednesday, shared snaps with Roethlisberger in practice yesterday, but said he would have no problem stepping aside if Roethlisberger is ready to play again.

“You always want to play, but my role is the backup,” said Batch, who threw for 276 yards against the Ravens. “So, if he’s ready to play, you can’t be sad about that. Ben is the guy. So whenever Ben is ready to go, he’s going to be out there. And he’s going to do everything in his power to be out there.”

All the signs point to that being this week.

And Tomlin said he doesn’t expect it to be a last-minute decision. In fact, he could make his determination as early as today.

“We’ve made decisions up to the 11th hour in the past,” Tomlin said. “I don’t think that this would be a situation where that will be something that we’ll be doing, based on what I saw today.”

Odds and end zones

Placekicker Shaun Suisham was named the AFC’s special teams player of the week Wednesday for his performance against the Ravens. Suisham kicked three field goals against Baltimore, including a game-winning 42-yard attempt as time expired. … As expected, a number of players were given the day off Wednesday as they recovered from bumps and bruises acquired against Baltimore. Most are expected to return to practice today. … With cornerback Ike Taylor out with a hairline fracture in his ankle, the Steelers worked out former St. Louis Rams and Penn State cornerback Justin King.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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