Roethlisberger to start Sunday vs. Chargers
Ben Roethlisberger, who has made a career of standing up to challenges, successfully answered the latest one issued by his head coach.
And it means Roethlisberger is the Steelers' starting quarterback again, barring an unexpected injury setback Thursday or Friday.
Roethlisberger, in so much pain from his rib and shoulder-related injuries last week that he could throw only lightly, so impressed coach Mike Tomlin with his upgraded throwing Wednesday that he ran the starting offense in practice from nearly start to finish.
“We'll see how his body responds (Thursday), and we'll go from there, but it was a positive day,” Tomlin said. “He made all the necessary throws.”
It was big step forward from last week, when Roethlisberger visibly was bothered by his shoulder sprain and a fracture inside his upper chest still needed time to ossify, or form new bone.
Now it appears only a major setback will keep him from starting Sunday against the Chargers (4-8) at Heinz Field in what would be his first game since he was hurt Nov. 12 against Kansas City.
There's a little bit of pain and tightness but we're not worried about that feeling right now,” said Roethlisberger, who said playing with pain hasn't been an issue. “(I did) three or four reps in each (practice) period, give or take a few, to get a feel for what throws I can and can't make.”
Tomlin apparently didn't see any he couldn't make. Tomlin even assembled reporters following practice, something he does during game weeks only when there are major developments.
“He threw the ball around both horizontally and vertically,” Tomlin said. “I thought the ball had good velocity, particularly in a few instances. It was positive.”
Roethlisberger doesn't need to do anything special Thursday or Friday to get the start as the Steelers (7-5) begin the final, pivotal quarter of their season.
“We've made decisions up to the 11th hour in the past,” Tomlin said. “(But) 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.”
Roethlisberger's teammates enjoyed seeing him back. The Steelers are 1-2 without him — splitting with the Ravens, as Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch divided the starts, and losing to the Browns with Batch.
“He looked pretty good throwing the ball,” running back Jonathan Dwyer said. “He didn't look like he was getting tired or was in any pain.”
Receiver Emmanuel Sanders sat out of practice with a sore shoulder, but he said Roethlisberger threw “with great velocity.”
Batch, who celebrated his 38th birthday Wednesday, said he was ready to step in if Roethlisberger can't go. Batch played the best game of his 11-season Steelers career Sunday, leading them to their improbable 23-20 win at Baltimore.
“You always want to play, but my role is the backup. … As long as Ben is ready to go, he's going to go. Then you kind of fall back into the role which you normally fall back into. I'm used to that. I understand both sides of it, and right now I'm comfortable either way.”
This would be the seventh time Roethlisberger has returned from an in-season injury or other issue to play in that same season. In the previous six games, the Steelers went 3-3, as Roethlisberger was 100 of 163 for 1,123 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“We're excited … just like we were when Troy (Polamalu) came back,” Dwyer said. “We know what No. 7 brings to the table.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.