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Insider Only Thursday Practice Report: Roethlisberger looks to move on from Ward’s comments

Inside Pittsburgh Sports
The Steelers hope to have closure with the controversy created this past Sunday by Hines Ward. That closure is possible now that Ben Roethlisberger has addressed the issue with the Pittsburgh media.
Speaking before practice Thursday, the Steelers’ quarterback admitted that he was “hurt” by remarks made by Ward on the pre-game show before a 20-17 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Ward in essence challenged Roethlisberger’s toughness for sitting out with what Ward described as “just a concussion.”
“I told (Hines) I was just more hurt than anything,” Roethlisberger said.
On Saturday when the Steelers learned that Roethlisberger wouldn’t play due to re-occurring headaches from a Nov. 22 concussion, Ward said he was frustrated. Ward was bummed out to be playing the hated Ravens without “Big Ben.”
But imagine how Roethlisberger found out when he got the news.
“Coach (Mike) Tomlin basically pulled me in his office and told me,” Roethlisberger said. “I was kind of in shock, upset, shock but respected what they said. You do have to think about your future and your family. You can get knee replacement surgery. You can have rotator cuff surgeries. But you can’t get a new brain.
“(Our team doctors) took what was my best interests in mind,” Roethlisberger added.”A lot of people forget the (motorcycle) accident that I had (in 2006). It was life threatening, I almost lost my life for an accident to my head and face and the five plates I have in my face right now.
“So they knew what was in my best interests and when you have symptoms like that, they felt it was best to not go and that was their decision, not mine. I wanted to play but on Saturday morning they made that decision.”
Roethlisberger went as far as making one last plea to Tomlin just after the national anthem was played Sunday night, but Tomlin refused to let him play.
Roethlisberger was in uniform and designated as the No. 3 quarterback behind Dennis Dixon, who started, and backup Tyler Palko, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday.
So for a final word on the controversy created by Ward, Roethlisberger said, “We’re moving on and getting past it.”
And as he said Wednesday, Roethlisberger said Thursday that “I feel great. I’m ready to go … no headaches and ready to rock and roll.”
***On Tuesday at his weekly press conference, Tomlin said that he wouldn’t mind finding ways to get Dennis Dixon on the field “in spot places here and there.”
But on Thursday, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said that’s not going to happen soon even though Dixon played relatively well in his first pro start against the Ravens.
For one thing, Arians is not a big fan of the Wildcat offense several NFL teams are using.
Secondly, with Batch out indefinitely, the Steelers are very thin at second- and third-team quarterback in terms of experience.
Dixon, a second-year pro, had only taken five snaps as a pro before Sunday. Palko, a 2006 Pitt grad, has never played in an NFL game.
“Absolutely zero,” Arians said of any chance of implementing a package that includes Dixon this week.
***For anyone who’s ever listened to Mike Tomlin speak, it’s obvious the coach has a way with words.
Strong safety Troy Polamalu, who’s missed six games with two different knee injuries this season, said that Tomlin is “quite the orator, if that’s what you want to call it. He has a way of getting his message across.”
Tomlin’s message this week is that the 6-5 Steelers, who are slumping after three straight losses, “will unleash hell here in December” in an attempt to get back on track.
Free safety Ryan Clark understands the seriousness of the situation, but he did get a chuckle when asked in the Steelers could unleash hell without Polamalu, who won’t play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders (3-8).
“I think Troy would be upset to be in the same sentence as ‘unleashing hell,’ ” said Clark, who’s well aware of Polamalu’s laid-back personality off the field and his strong Christian beliefs.
“If you know Troy, there is nothing hellish about him. He doesn’t even want you to call him the Tasmanian Devil.”
*** By the way, Tomlin thought up his “unleash hell in December” line after watching the “Gladiator.”
“Truth be known, it was kind of Russell Crowe inspired,” Tomlin said. “That’s one of my favorite movies.”
***Three Steelers didn’t practice Thursday:

Polamalu, who’s still nursing his second sprained knee of the season; backup QB Charlie Batch, who’s recovering from a broken wrist; and defensive end Travis Kirschke, who’s still having problems with a torn calf muscle.
Kirschke played in Baltimore after missing three games. But he’s now missed two straight practices since then.
If Kirschke practices Friday, he’ll play against the Raiders.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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