Roethlisberger struggles to throw deep; Polamalu encouraged he'll be back
Ask Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his assistants how they determine when an injured player is ready to return, and they'll offer this: “We go by what we see.”
Here's what Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley are seeing of Ben Roethlisberger in practice: Not much.
Here's what Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau are seeing of Troy Polamalu: Quite a lot but not enough for him to play full time.
The Steelers went through an unusual practice Thursday in which quarterback Charlie Batch again ran the first-team offense but most eyes were on Roethlisberger, who still hasn't ruled himself out of playing Sunday in Baltimore.
Roethlisberger threw lightly Wednesday, and, according to Haley, he worked with teammates only during the front end of practice Thursday.
The problem: Roethlisberger still isn't pain-free, still isn't throwing deep and apparently still isn't recovered from a complicated upper-body injury.
Roethlisberger is healing not only from a posterior dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint and a dislocated rib but also, he was told by doctors, an underlying fracture in his upper chest that requires time for ossification, the formation of new bone.
Before ossification began, a piece of his rib could have punctured the aorta — the body's largest artery — and created a life-threatening condition, Roethlisberger was told.
Doctors who are not consulting with Roethlisberger but who treat patients with similar conditions said the aorta is more likely to be threatened by a fracture, not a dislocation.
Roethlisberger's doctors have not publicly discussed the injury, and the team has explained it only as a shoulder injury. Tomlin said he considers the SC joint and rib problems to be a single injury.
When he returns, Roethlisberger will wear a heavier shoulder pad reinforced by Kevlar and the flak jacket he always wears, but they can't totally prevent another injury.
“I can play through a lot of pain,” Roethlisberger said. “But mostly it's just, to me, ability. Can I make a long throw? Can I put a lot of zip on the ball, throw it really hard before people like (Ravens 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.”
Because Roethlisberger still isn't airing out his passes, Haley talked as if it's almost a done deal Batch will start, despite throwing three interceptions and missing receivers during the 20-14 loss in Cleveland on Sunday.
“When you talk about a quarterback who hasn't played a whole lot — to get an opportunity and then get a second opportunity, a second full week of practice, I would expect him to be better,” Haley said.
Polamalu has waited nearly two months for his torn right calf to heal, and the full practices he went through Wednesday and Thursday were his first since he was reinjured Oct. 7.
Polamalu is encouraged to be back — “I'm very excited,” he said — but he still requires extensive post-practice therapy.
“I don't think he will be able to be out there every snap, but he is going to be able to take a significant role,” LeBeau said. “He has been idle for a good while. ... He is in good shape. His aerobic conditioning is good, but I think his football conditioning needs some development.”
Polamalu, like Roethlisberger, is a restless healer.
“There's a reason why the Steelers don't have cheerleaders,” Polamalu said. “I'm not on the sidelines cheering. I'm a football player.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.