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Steelers' Roethlisberger throws but appears unlikely to play

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Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger practice on the South Side Nov. 28, 2012.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:36 p.m.
 

Ben Roethlisberger threw very little and talked even less on the first day he tossed a football with teammates since being injured 2 12 weeks ago.

Does his uncommon silence mean he's simply not ready to play, even against the rival Ravens — a team the Steelers haven't beaten in five tries without their franchise quarterback?

Roethlisberger's limited practice participation Wednesday suggests his dislocated rib and shoulder-related sternoclavicular joint injuries haven't healed enough for him to play. Roethlisberger's light throwing ended even before some players reached the practice field.

Too many teammates have watched Roethlisberger pull off too many unexpected comebacks — such as the one he made late last season in San Francisco on a badly swollen ankle — to rule him out at mid-week. But this might be too much, too soon to ask of even him.

Roethlisberger, who also was seen at the Steelers' practice complex with his right knee wrapped, is expected to test himself again Thursday. If he can't throw a lot longer and a lot harder, there is almost no chance he can play this week.

“I wasn't out there when he was throwing, but if there's any possibility he can play … he knows his body better than anybody,” left tackle Max Starks said. “I don't know his health situation, but if he is healthy enough to play, I wouldn't see any reason why he wouldn't.”

If Roethlisberger were close to being ready, he almost certainly would have taken snaps with the starters. Instead, Charlie Batch ran the first-team offense, a day after coach Mike Tomlin said he is being prepared to make a second successive start.

“I know I didn't play well last week,” said Batch, who threw three interceptions during the 20-14 surprise loss in Cleveland. “Any time that you have another opportunity like this week, for me it's going out there and making sure I don't make those mistakes again.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh watched the Steelers go through three quarterbacks in three weeks — including Byron Leftwich, who fractured a couple of ribs during Baltimore's 13-10 win at Heinz Field on Nov. 18 — so he doesn't know who or what to expect.

“We're in the dark. We're not really trying to determine it,” Harbaugh said. “It's something that maybe nobody knows now.”

Roethlisberger probably does, but he didn't speak with reporters.

Batch, a week away from his 38th birthday, understands he must be better for the Steelers (6-5) to have a chance to end their three-game losing streak against the Ravens (9-2), who are on the verge of clinching the AFC North.

The Ravens are trying to win their fourth in a row in the series, which would be the longest streak since the Steelers won five straight — counting the playoffs — from 2001-03.

“I need to make sure I'm doing whatever it takes to put this team in the end zone,” Batch said.

The Steelers' season doesn't hinge on this game. They probably can reach the playoffs by winning at least three of their last four, as long as one of those wins is against the Bengals (6-5) on Dec. 23.

But after being held to two touchdowns since Roethlisberger was hurt early in the third quarter against the Chiefs on Nov. 12, the Steelers need to regain the offensive cohesion and chemistry they had — especially in the running game — when they beat the Giants, 24-20, on Nov. 4.

“We have to figure out whatever we need to do,” Batch said, “because as we continue to push during the final stretch of our season, in order for us to get to where we want to get to, we have to start winning.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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