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Old 12-23-2011, 02:46 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Bires: Get Roethlisberger healthy and sit him down

Bires: Get Roethlisberger healthy and sit him down
Mike Bires Times Sports Staff | Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 11:45 pm

PITTSBURGH -- Many months ago when the NFL released its schedule, we figured on a sexy Christmas Eve quarterback showdown at Heinz Field: Sam Bradford vs. Ben Roethlisberger.

But that won't be the case. Instead, we're looking at a QB match-up that's unappealing as can be: Kellen Clemens vs. Charlie Batch.

We definitely aren't talking star power here when it comes to the two men expected to lead their offenses in what promises to be a mismatch of major proportions.

Clemens, who's been on three NFL rosters this year, is a third-stringer. Batch, who's 37, would be the No. 3 man in Pittsburgh if Byron Leftwich didn't break his arm in August.

But Clemens vs. Batch is what we're expected to get due to the dreaded high ankle sprain.

Bradford, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, has been hobbling for more than two months now. He originally sprained his ankle Oct. 16. He's missed four games during than time, including this past Sunday's home loss to the Bengals.

After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, Bradford was pronounced "doubtful" by his coach. That means Bradford won't play in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Yar in 2004 and a three-time Super Bowl participant, has been hobbling with the same injury since Dec. 8.

Even though he hardly practiced last week, he played Monday night in that 20-3 dud in San Francisco. What a disaster that was for Roethlisberger, who played poorly with three interceptions and a lost fumble.

Tuesday at his weekly press briefing, coach Mike Tomlin went to great lengths to defend the decision to play Roethlisberger.

Obviously, Roethlisberger's chances of playing in San Fran improved because the Ravens lost Sunday night to the Chargers, thus opening the door for the Steelers to regain control in the AFC North. But since the Steelers failed to take over the division lead, there is no need to risk further damage to Roethlisberger's ankle. He could use a week off for rest and rehab.

After all, these are the hapless Rams. They're a team that's lost five straight, a team that's given up 30 points or more in seven games, a team that's scored only 13 touchdowns all season.

The Steelers could probably beat these Rams if Hines Ward played quarterback.

On Wednesday, there was a report on NFL.com that certain Steelers officials would be "shocked" if Roethlisberger played against the Rams. Roethlisberger quickly refuted that report, and many of his teammates said they expected to see No. 7 back in the lineup.

But mum was the word in the locker room Thursday. Roethlisberger, who didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, didn't talk to the media. Batch wouldn't address the issue. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said "Last minute, whatever Coach (Tomlin) says will go. We always have plans for both of them, so no problem."

For as much as Roethlisberger says he wants to play, the Steelers can look at Bradford's situation for a reason not to play him. Bradford, who the Rams expect to someday be the franchise QB that Roethlisberger is in Pittsburgh, probably won't take another snap this year.

The Steelers have the playoffs to look forward to, and to advance, they'll need Roethlisberger as healthy as possible.

Maybe that explains the buzz at team headquarters Thursday that Roethlisberger won't play against the Rams.

So on Saturday, we're not going to get Bradford vs. Roethlisberger. Instead, we'll get the not-so classic match-up of Clemens vs. Batch.
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