PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Thursday that if Ben Roethlisberger can’t start at quarterback against the San Francisco 49ers Monday night, veteran Charlie Batch will get the call.
But don’t count out Roethlisberger, Arians warned, or believe that the Steelers won’t go to fourth-year pro Dennis Dixon if necessary. Arians noted that while it wouldn’t be the most ideal circumstance, Roethlisberger could be a game-time decision, based on his performance during warmups.
“We’d like to see Ben practice at least one day to see what he can do, but we can base it on warmups if we have to,” Arians said. “We’ve won with all three, so the next man in line has always been the motto whether it’s the quarterback (or any position). The next guy has to step up and play good, but we won’t change our game plan. As far as Ben playing, that would be difficult today.
“Dropping back, planting and throwing, those are all tough right now. So, there would be no chance for him to play today, but I’ve seen him improve greatly as the week went on. So, we’ll see where he’s at in a couple days. The lack of mobility with a high-ankle sprain is a little more than he’s had to deal with in the past. So, we’ve got to be careful with it, but he’ll let us know.”
Roethlisberger said earlier in the day that if it’s up to him, he’ll play, as long as he can move around a little bit. But it’s more likely that the trainers and coaches will determine his status. It appears to be highly unlikely, at this point, that Roethlisberger will be ready to play by the weekend. But there are still several days for him to improve due to the late Monday night matchup.
‘I’m going to do everything I can to be out there, but it’s probably more on them,” Roethliserger said. “So, if I’m not out there, it’s probably them thinking that I won’t be able to protect myself or whatever. I always think I can go, and I’m going to do everything I can to play. But it’s ultimately their decision, as far as I’m concerned. And we’ve done everything we can to this point.
And if there isn’t anything that you can do for it but rest then we’re doing a lot of stuff for nothing. Believe me, we’re doing everything we can. And we’re doing it a lot, practically non-stop. I’m in there early, before practice and after. It’s range of motion stuff, hot tub, cold tub, resistance, moving, massages. And we got molded today for a cast for an ankle brace to see if that helps.
“So, the training staff, John Norwig and those guys, we’re all doing everything that we can to get me ready to play,” Roethlisberger added. “You hear a lot of people talk about high-ankle sprains, and they tell you how painful it is. But you never know what you’ll go through until you have it. That’s what I learned, and it’s definitely not a fun thing. That’s what I’ll tell you about my first one.”
The cast mold for Roethlisberger’s left foot will be sent to a New Jersey company to get ready for practice and games. Roethlisberger said the injury is worse now after several days, but he is allowed to wear the boot off and on (still more on) and hopes the cast will help.
“It’s worse now than it was during the second half of that (Cleveland) game, when I was playing off adrenaline and emotion,” Roethlisberger said. “The next couple days after that, I was just shaking my head. I couldn’t have done it. I don’t know how I did it, but it’s amazing what adrenaline can do and wanting to be out there for your guys can do for you.
“It’s similar, in a way, to my broken foot because when you put pressure on it there’s pain. But this is a little different, because I can’t get up on my toes. That’s important with running and throwing, and I can’t twist. So, it’s the most painful thing in that regard. With the broken foot, I could tape it up, immobilize it, and I could function with it like that. This is a little tougher to deal with.”
Roethlisberger also expressed faith in either Batch or Dixon if they need to play.
“If it was just a matter of pain I’d be out there,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s physically unable to do certain things. I wish I was able to do everything and just had to deal with pain, but it’s difficult just not being able to get out there. (But) I know Charlie and Dennis can get it done. Weâve seen it happen in the past.
“That’s a great relief for someone like me. That being said, I want to be the guy, but it’s tough right now. At least it actually looks like an ankle now instead of one big mass of fluid down there. We’re definitely making big progress, but we’ll see how it is in a couple days before we make a decision about Monday.”
The Steelers practice from 10:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and will leave Sunday for San Francisco.