- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Many believe the Baltimore Ravens would lock up the AFC North title next Sunday if they can sweep the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could change the AFC North race.
Roethlisberger has a chance of playing at the Ravens next Sunday after missing two games with rib and shoulder injuries, team sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Roethlisberger's pain tolerance and range of motion could determine whether he plays next week, according to the report.
Getting back Roethlisberger is key for the Steelers to beat the AFC North-leading Ravens. Pittsburgh is 0-5 against Baltimore without Roethlisberger since 2005.
If the Steelers (6-4) win at Cleveland on Sunday and the Ravens (8-2) lose at San Diego, where they've had trouble, Pittsburgh would move to within one game of Baltimore. That would put first place on the line in next Sunday's game. Roethlisberger is 3-2 for his career in Baltimore.
Even if the Steelers and Ravens both win, Pittsburgh could close to within one game of first place if it wins at Baltimore.
The concern is whether the Steelers are rushing back Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh needs him more in the postseason than the regular season. The Steelers' offense struggled in their playoff loss at Denver last season, when Roethlisberger was limited with an ankle injury.
But according to the report, doctors have determined his rib has healed enough that he doesn't risk further damage.