It's a green light for Ben Roethlisberger
Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
December 5. 2012
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger sat at his locker before going out to test his injured throwing shoulder and healing ribs during Wednesday's practice, confident he's healed enough to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
"I'm hoping,'' Roethlisberger told USA TODAY Sports. "I can play with pain. I'll give it everything I've got. Pain is not an issue for me. It's about performance and how hard can I throw the ball? How far can I throw the ball?
"I feel a lot better. We'll see how it goes. "
Apparently, it went pretty well. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Roethlisberger took plenty of reps with first team.
"It's exciting, as long as there's no setbacks, to have him back,'' Haley told USA TODAY Sports. "He's obviously such a big, big part of this team.''
Coach Mike Tomlin called it "a positive day," and added, "He made all the necessary throws.''
Roethlisberger's dislocated rib has healed enough where it is no longer a threat to puncture his aorta as was the case initially after he sustained a hit in a Nov. 12 win against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Three weeks ago, Roethlisberger told Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis before Pittsburgh's 13-10 loss to the Ravens that it was "killing'' him not to be able to play. Thing is, it could have killed him -- literally -- to have played the past three games.
"From what I understand, the rib was, it was stable in the back, but in the front, if I took the wrong shot, it could puncture the wrong way,'' Roethlisberger said.
"According to the training personnel staff, doctors, they don't feel the stability is an issue. I'm sure that first time I hit the ground it's going to be a little -- I may lay there for a second or so to make sure I can feel everything in my chest. According to them, everything is stable.
"I can play with pain.''
It seems fitting that Roethlisberger's return to practice coincided with the return to practice of Lewis from a torn triceps suffered in October. Roethlisberger and Lewis had a heart-to-heart conversation about missing the fierce Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry for the first time during their careers three weeks ago.
"Ray came up to me before the game and we had a long conversation on the field,'' Roethlisberger said, referencing that Nov. 18 loss. "I have a lot of respect for that guy. I gave him a hug and he goes, 'Who would have ever thought that, this game, neither one of us would play?' I said, 'I know. It's not the same.' Just acknowledging the admiration we have for each other. It's great to see him back out there (practicing today).''
There's a reason Roethlisberger wants to be back Sunday. The Steelers (7-5) own the same record they did in 2005, when they won their last four regular season games, then ran the table in the playoffs to win Super Bowl XL against Seattle in Detroit -- the first of two Super Bowls with Roethlisberger.
"It's about when you get hot and come together as a team,'' Roethlisberger said. "Our defense is starting to get hot and click in. We're starting to put it together. All it takes is one win and then you just roll with it.''
Charlie Batch, who turned 38 Wednesday, delivered a 23-20 win against Baltimore -- but all the talk around the league is about the rookie crop, led by Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
"It makes me laugh a little bit because people are talking about these rookie quarterbacks and they should be talked about, they're great players,'' Roethlisberger said. "My thing has always been, 'Let's wait for two or three years to see if they're great yet. They've done some great things. And they have all the potential in the world to do it.
"I'm sure if you go ask Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or myself, any of those veteran guys, we'll say we're going to keep doing what we do. Let all the press go to those guys and we'll just try and win games."
He then warned the rookie quarterbacks: "No question about it, it is a completely different ballgame when you get to the playoffs."