Inside Pittsburgh Sports
On Sunday night, Ben Roethlisberger will face a menacing Baltimore Ravens defense one week after experiencing his fourth concussion in less than four years. Still, he’s not going into this AFC North showdown fearing for his safety.
“It’s the nature of the beast of playing this game,” he said. “It’s a violent, physical contact sport and there’s a chance you’re going to get hit and dinged.”
Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ franchise quarterback, was hit a lot last week in a 27-24 loss in Kansas City. He was also “dinged” and knocked out of the game in the overtime period when he was kneed in the head by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.
Because Roethlisberger is a man who’s suffered multiple concussions, Steelers physicians are taking every precaution that it’s safe to for “Big Ben” to play Sunday night in Baltimore.
Roethlisberger, who practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, says he’s passed every test given to him.
“I’ve taken a thousand tests and passed them all with flying colors,” he said. “(So) I’m not worried because we have the best doctors. If I can go out and pass thousands of these tests and show that I’m fine, then I’m not worried about it.”
Even though he’s 4-0 in his last four starts against the Ravens, Roethlisberger figures to be in for a tough game at M&T Bank Stadium. The Steelers (6-4) and Ravens (5-5) are both fighting for their playoff lives. And since this has been one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL in recent years, this promises to be a very physical game against two teams that pride themselves on physicality.
“This has been a rivalry that’s been heated, well coached and well played since I’ve been here,” said Roethlisberger, who made his pro debut in Baltimore in early in the 2004 season when the Ravens KO’d Tommy Maddox with an elbow injury.
“It’s going to be no different on Sunday,” Roethlisberger added.
On the Steelers’ official injury report, Roethlisberger is listed as questionable.
STEELERS WORK OUT TWO QBS
In the event that the Steelers face any more health issues at quarterback, they’re compiling a list of unemployed QBs they could sign.
With backup Charlie Batch out two-to-four weeks with a broken wrist _ Batch, too, was injured in OT in Kansas City _ the only two quarterbacks on the roster are Roethlisberger and Dennis Dixon.
This week, the Steelers worked Patrick Ramsey and Todd Bouman.
Ramsey is an eighth-year pro who started 24 games with the Washington Redskins from 2002-2005. But he has not started a game since then while spending time on the rosters of the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans.
Bouman is an 11th-year pro who’s only made six career starts while spending time on the rosters of six different NFL teams.
“There is some risk,” Mike Tomlin said of keeping just two QBS on the active roster. “It’s a risk that a lot of teams take, not only every now and then, but all the time. Some teams only have two quarterbacks on their roster, so that’s a risk that we’re willing to weigh and run.
“We don’t have an answer to that third quarterback right as I sit here right now. Obviously, if we get down to that, the situation is going to be dire and our personality is going to change quite a bit.”
While there’s a chance the Steelers could sign a third QB, it looks as though they’re willing to go with just Roethlisberger and Dixon for the time being.
FOSTER TO MAKE FIRST PRO START
Even though he was an undrafted rookie tackle, Ramon Foster was impressive enough to win a roster spot with the Steelers.
A tackle at Tennessee, Foster now plays guard. And due to Chris Kemoeatu’s knee sprain, Foster will make his first pro start Sunday in Baltimore.
“Obviously, I’m excited about it,” Foster said. “And because it’s against Baltimore, obviously it’s a big game. I just have to be consistent with the other guys (on the line) and know what I’m doing. If I do that, everything should work out well.”
Foster was forced into action in the third quarter of last week’s loss in Kansas City when Kemoeatu suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament. He’s out indefinitely.
Until Kemoeatu returns, it will probably be Foster who starts at left guard.
“When you look at the number of snaps that he played (last) Sunday in Kansas City, I think that for a young man, he represented himself relatively well,” Tomlin said of Foster. “Here’s a guy who prepared as a multiple-position backup, with not a lot of continuity and consistency, working with (left tackle) Max Starks and (center) Justin Hartwig.
“Fully expect him to be above the line and to give us a winning-caliber performance. For a young guy, he’s shown remarkable maturity as a professional.”
DECEIVING DEFENSIVE STATS?
Last week, the Steelers’ defense allowed the Chiefs to score the last 10 points of the game. They allowed a game-tying 91-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and a 76-yard field goal drive in overtime.
Still, the Steelers rank No. 1 in the NFL in total defense. They’re first against the run and 12th against the pass.
“We gave up too many big plays last week,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.”But like I’ve said earlier this year, this defense has a chance to be a pretty good defense.”
LATEST ON THE INJURY FRONT
It appears that defensive end Travis Kirschke ‘s three-game streak on the game-day inactive list will end on Sunday.
Kirschke might not start, but he should play after he was listed as questionable. Kirschke practiced Friday and seems set to return from a torn calf muscle that forced him to miss the past three games.
Meanwhile, Kemoeatu and strong safety Troy Polamalu were both ruled out. Polamalu hasn’t played since spraining an MCL in the Nov. 15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Finally, running back Willie Parker is listed as probable. Due to a hip injury, Parker was limited at practice Thursday. But he was a full participant on Friday.
RAVENS BANGED UP
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that he hoped that star linebacker Terrell Suggs would be able play. But due to a knee injury, it appears Suggs will miss his second straight game.
Suggs is listed as doubtful.
Two other standout defenders _ linebacker Ray Lewis (foot) and safety Ed Reed (foot) _ are listed as questionable. But they’re both expected to play.