Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: November 30, 11:14 AM ET
Ben Roethlisberger testing shoulder
ESPN.com news services
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger can hold his newborn son Ben Jr. in his injured right arm just fine.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback will be able to say the same about a football, even he's not sure.
Roethlisberger practiced in a limited role Thursday and appears a long shot to return for Sunday's game in Baltimore. According to a source, Roethlisberger ran the first-team offense, but really struggled.
"There's always a chance," Roethlisberger offered somewhat hopefully.
Roethlisberger's role is expected to expand in practice Friday, but a source says he has only a 35 percent chance to play Sunday.
The lengthy list of issues still plaguing Roethlisberger more than two weeks after he sprained his right shoulder and suffered a dislocated rib in a 16-13 overtime win against Kansas City, however, suggests he's still a week away from giving it a go.
Though the pain isn't quite as intense as it was in the days after Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali drilled Roethlisberger into the soggy Heinz Field turf, the two-time Super Bowl winner still can only sleep in certain positions at night. And while he's tested the shoulder this week, he's uncertain if he can make all the throws necessary to attack Baltimore's secondary.
"Can I put a lot of zip on the ball, throw it really hard before people like Ed Reed and defenders can get to the ball?" Roethlisberger said. "If I can't I'm not putting us in the best situation to win the game."
The Steelers (6-5) have struggled in Roethlisberger's absence, needing overtime to beat the woeful Chiefs before looking listless at times and sloppy at others in losses to Baltimore and Cleveland. A season that looked promising after a 24-20 win over the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants in New Jersey on Nov. 4 is suddenly on very shaky ground.
Still, don't expect Roethlisberger to push too quickly. It's something he's done in the past, with less than desired results. He played on a battered right ankle in San Francisco last year, limping around in a 20-3 loss. He ended up sitting out the next week and wasn't the same when he returned.
"We've had people talk about last year in San Francisco, if I would have rested maybe I would have been better off the next couple games, but to me, I live for the here and now," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to be out there and if it doesn't work then I'll do what I can about the next week."
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Roethlisberger threw "a little bit" on Thursday but the team continues to prepare as if Charlie Batch will make his second straight start. Batch completed 20-of-34 passes for 199 yards and three costly interceptions against the Browns, mistakes Haley attributed to rusty timing more than physical ability.
"I don't think there's any limitations to what Chuck can do," Haley said, "or needs to do with the guys we have."
Roethlisberger remains optimistic Batch can muster some of the magic that helped him lead the Steelers to three victories since 2010 while filling in for his good friend.
"I firmly believe that," Roethlisberger said. "They know what he's capable of. He's been doing it a long time. They respect him. I think he's ready to rise to the occasion."
Something the Steelers need to do if they want to build any momentum going into the final quarter of the season. A loss in a place they struggle to play well in -- no matter who is behind the center -- would leave them with no wiggle room whenever Roethlisberger gets back to work.
The game's importance is not lost on Roethlisberger, who will wear "juiced up" pads to protect his shoulder if he plays, though doctors have told him the dislocated rib no longer poses a threat to his aorta.
That's welcome news for a guy in the first days of fatherhood. Roethlisberger called being a dad "pretty cool" and while he's enjoyed the time at home, he's also eager to go back to his job. If he doesn't play on Sunday he'll do what he's done the last two weeks and stand on the sideline -- earbuds in place -- and provide the kind of insight Batch has imparted on him so many times though the years.
"It's hard for me," Roethlisberger said. "You watched me during these games. I've been on the field more than most of the coaches because I'm just antsy to get out there."
That anxiousness, however, figures to be around for at least another week.
The Ravens have no idea whether Batch or Big Ben will be calling the signals at M&T Bank Stadium. So they said Wednesday they were preparing for both.
"We really don't care who lines up at quarterback," Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said. "For us, it's a game that's going to be physical. They're going to try to win whoever's under center. If Ben plays, I know what kind of competitor he is. This guy is probably one of the strongest quarterbacks in the National Football League and one of the most competitive, him and Philip Rivers. But when it's all said and done, whoever lines up, lines up. We have our own situation to take care of. We really don't care."
Quarterback might not be the only spot where the Steelers could have a different face in a key spot. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey said Wednesday that he will play guard on Sunday if Willie Colon can't play because of a knee injury.
"Whatever is best for the team," Pouncey said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
If Colon can't play, Pouncey will shift to his left guard spot, and Doug Legursky will start at center.
NotesWhile Roethlisberger is doubtful, S Troy Polamalu appears ready to play for the first time since Oct. 7. Polamalu practiced for the second straight day and barring a setback should be on the field in Baltimore. Polamalu has been limited to just five quarters all season due to a strained right calf ... Rookie G David DeCastro continued to make progress in his first week on the active roster after recovering from right knee surgery in August. Haley said he expects DeCastro to make an impact on the field before the end of the season.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder and The Associated Press was used in this report.