Steelers Notebook: Growing injury list includes Big Ben
Monday, November 29, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The cost of winning another ballgame came at another price for the Steelers in what has become a year of injuries.
One of them was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who stayed in the game despite an injury to his right foot that will undergo more tests at home. Coach Mike Tomlin called it a foot sprain immediately after the game.
"My foot was in the ground and someone was driving me backwards and my foot couldn't get out of the ground, so my knee just got bent sideways," Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers also lost another defensive end, Nick Eason, to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Chris Hoke replaced Eason.
The team entered the game with both starting defensive ends on the shelf with injuries. Aaron Smith (triceps) likely won't return until at least late in the season and Brett Keisel missed his fifth game of the past six with what the Steelers have variously described as calf and hamstring injuries.
Cornerback Bryant McFadden also left the contest for good with a hamstring injury. He was replaced in the regular defense by William Gay. Anthony Madison became the fifth defensive back when they used the nickel and Keenan Lewis joined them to make it six when they played the dime.
More for Harrison?
Linebacker James Harrison, already fined $100,000 for three hits this season, found himself in hot water again Sunday, at least with the game officials after they flagged him for roughing Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter.
Referee John Parry announced that Harrison was penalized for "leading with his helmet" when he hit the quarterback in the chest.
Harrison defended the hit later, saying it was a textbook tackle and that officials are becoming paranoid about not making calls because of pressure from the league. He compared it to his penalty the previous week on Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell -- a penalty for roughing the passer that Harrison also said was legal and did not draw a fine from the league.
"There's nothing wrong about the play," Harrison said. "I just felt like it's getting to a point where the refs feel like if they don't make the call they may be in trouble. So if it is or it isn't a bad play if it's questionable."
On what Tomlin told him right afterward: "He just told me to keep playing."
Sack total raised
Harrison also registered his 10th sack of the season and one of only two Sunday by the Steelers. James Farrior had the other. Not only did it match his entire total from 2009, it's the third season in a row he has hit double digits, beginning with his team-record 16 in 2008.
He is the only player in team history to have at least 10 in three consecutive seasons.
"It's not going to change the way I play," Harrison said of his penalty.
Tight end Matt Spaeth was scratched because of lingering concussion issues.
Former Steelers guard Kraig Urbik started at right guard for Buffalo, which claimed him off waivers when the Steelers released him on the final cut.
Steelers -- Charlie Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, Crezdon Butler, Chris Scott, Antonio Brown, Spaeth, Keisel and Smith.
Bills -- Levi Brown, CJ Spiller, Terrence McGee, Eric Wood, Shawn Nelson, Mike Balogun and John McCargo.
More Polamalu praise
Add Fitzpatrick to the list of unabashed admirers of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
"Troy really showed up and made some big plays for them," he said. "He's all over the place. He just flies around and has a great football sense in terms of reading plays, relying on his instincts and reacting to what he sees."
Polamalu was credited with four tackles, three pass break-ups and a fumble recovery. But his biggest play came when he dived to intercept Fitzpatrick's deflected pass on a second-and-7 play from the Steelers' 12 late in the game with the Steelers leading, 16-13. "Troy made a great play to get over there and get his hands on the ball," Fitzpatrick said.
Gay steps up
Cornerback William Gay, who has been picked on and victimized for several touchdowns as the nickel back, played exceptionally well after he had to step in at left cornerback for injured Bryant McFadden.
Gay was credited with a team-high four passes defensed, none bigger than when he stepped in front of a pass intended for Bills receiver Stevie Johnson on second-and-7 from the Steelers' 12 in the fourth quarter. When the ball popped in the air, Polamalu made a diving interception at the 2, preventing the Bills from scoring the go-ahead touchdown or even kicking the tying field goal.
"William Gay made a ton of plays," Ryan Clark said.
Rashard Mendenhall's 151-yard performance was the club's first 100-plus rushing effort in more than two months. The previous such performance was Mendenhall's 143 yards Sept. 26 at Tampa, Fla.
Despite scoring only one touchdown, the Steelers converted 12 third-down opportunities against Buffalo (12 for 19). In 10 previous games this season, the Steelers had never converted more than seven. Eight was the high for all of 2009.
The Steelers had more than 100 yards in penalties for the second consecutive week. Ten flags Sunday for 107 yards makes it 24 for 270 in the past two games. ... The Steelers have won seven of the past eight games against Buffalo. ... The Steelers are 5-1 on the road this year. ... The Bills don't have the worst run defense in the NFL for nothing. Averaging a 163-yard gouging every week on the ground, the Steelers aggravated that figure by putting up 206 against them. ... Fitzpatrick has thrown touchdown passes in 12 consecutive games, the longest for Buffalo since Doug Flutie had 12 in 1999.
The Post-Gazette's Ron Cook, Gene Collier and Gerry Dulac contributed to this report. For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus
. Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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