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Tomlin 'hopeful' Ben can practice this week

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said today he's "hopeful" quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be able to practice this week in preparation for Sunday's game against San Diego.

"It's our intent right now that we're hopeful that he'll practice," Tomlin said today during his weekly press conference. "Of course the shoulder is what it is. It's something he has dealt with and will continue to deal with. We'll see where he is when he comes in here and gets looked at today. We'll see what his availability is for practice after that."

Roethlisberger suffered a separated shoulder in the Steelers' regular-season opener on Sept. 7 against Houston. He was intercepted three times in the Steelers' 24-20 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday. Tomlin said Roethlisberger's ability to throw the ball down the field was not affected as the game progressed against the Colts.

Roethlisberger's practice time has been limited in recent weeks and he was replaced in the second half of the Steelers' 23-6 victory on Nov. 3 at Washington by Byron Leftwich.

Friday was the only day that Roethlisberger practiced in advance of the Indianapolis game. "I think it's important that you practice and get physical reps," Tomlin said. "One of the things we've been dealing with in regards to his situation is a little short-term misery. When people are dealing with injuries such as his, you miss practice time but they're veteran players and you get them to the stadium and you play, but that's only a short-term solution.

"The longer that that process goes on, you see issues turn up in terms of timing and cohesion." Cornerbacks Bryant McFadden (hand) and Deshea Townsend (hamstring) have been ruled out of Sunday's game against San Diego, which necessitated a roster move.

The Steelers have signed cornerback Fernando Bryant (5-foot-10, 174 pounds), a former first-round pick (26th overall) of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999.

Bryant spent the last two seasons in Detroit, where he started 16 games in 2007. "We worked Fernando out a couple weeks ago," Tomlin said. "He got in here last night. He's in the building trying to learn in a hurry.

"He's a sharp guy, a veteran football player. Hopefully, he'll be able to help us this weekend."

In other injury news:

• Running back Willie Parker (shoulder) is scheduled to practice on Wednesday.

• Offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back) will "potentially" practice this week, Tomlin said.

• Tight end Heath Miller (ankle) is "questionable at best" for San Diego.

• Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) "at the latest" will be on the practice field Thursday.

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