Steelers notebook: It's official: Roethlisberger will start
The Steelers made official Thursday what became evident the day before: Ben Roethlisberger will start at quarterback Sunday against San Diego.
The quarterback had “no setbacks” while practicing Thursday, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. Roethlisberger ran the starting offense for the second day in a row, and, just as he did Wednesday, coach Mike Tomlin said he was pleased with how Roethlisberger threw after being out for 3 1⁄2 games with rib and shoulder-related injuries.
“Really, the only question we can't answer is taking a hit,” Tomlin said. “That will be answered at the stadium on Sunday. I'm extremely comfortable with his ability to work the field vertically and horizontally. He has great velocity on his ball. We're ready to go.” Tight end Heath Miller likes how Roethlisberger is throwing. Roethlisberger joked that Miller is his best gauge to determining his velocity and the quality of his throws. “It's a lot better than last week,” Miller said. “Over time it will get better and better.” Haley said the only play that might be left out of the game plan is a quarterback sneak.
• Safety Troy Polamalu is happier with the approach the Steelers are taking now with his injured calf. He was out two games before coming back against the Eagles on Oct. 7, only to get hurt again and miss the next seven games. The injuries were in different muscles. “I think it was a lot better game plan going into the latest game (in Baltimore) than it was the Philadelphia game,” Polamalu said. “I think it was better in a way in terms of repetitions and the game plan and as far as practices were concerned.” Polamalu was given 14 snaps off Sunday in Baltimore, and he has yet to practice this week, although he is not considered hurt.
• Left guard Willie Colon (knee) returned to practice Thursday but said his status will be a game-time decision. Colon was pulling in the Ravens game Nov. 18 when linebacker Terrell Suggs rammed him in the knee. Colon sat out the past two games. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) missed practice again and is not expected to play. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) was limited, but receivers Antonio Brown (ankle) and Mike Wallace (knee) and running back Will Johnson (concussion) were full participants.
• The Chargers will be getting another early wakeup call Sunday, the kind that West Coast players greatly dislike. Their game at Heinz Field starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time, a time that can play havoc with their internal body clocks. They are 1-2 in such games this season and 6-9 under coach Norv Turner. “I don't know if it's so much coming east,” quarterback Philip Rivers said of the difficulty of playing a game three time zones away from home. “I think it's the Pittsburgh Steelers.” The Chargers are 0-14 in regular-season games in Pittsburgh.
• While his teammates are talking about making a strong stretch run, Polamalu said the Steelers wouldn't require a strong finish if they had taken care of business earlier. He didn't mention specific games, but he likely meant losses to the Raiders, Titans and Browns. “(The upcoming games are) obviously very important, but they're not any more meaningful than the games in September,” Polamalu said. “If we had handled them a little bit differently, then maybe the perception of our backs against the wall wouldn't be there.”
• Missing seven games with a calf injury made Polamalu understand even more what football means to him. “It reinforced the perception that I didn't appreciate it as much as I used to,” Polamalu said Thursday. His layoff moved the seven-time Pro Bowl safety to post a message on his blog about, he said, “Why football is so important to me.” “This game has aligned many things for me, and despite the recent challenges, tragedies and growing concern for player health, it has enforced virtues, tempted passions, and it has helped reveal to me my own spiritual deficiencies,” Polamalu said. “I can't help but feel fortunate, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to play this game. I am a better man than I was, still learning and growing, yet far from good enough to be counted among the worthy. … Many times the veil of money, a smile, even laughter conceals the inner turmoil one goes through.” By tragedies, Polamalu was referring to what he said was “sudden and sad news” — the shooting death of Kasandra Perkins, the girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, who committed suicide after killing her.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.