PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Just as the Steelers began to see the door swing closed on their season, a window of hope has opened for several injured players who could bolster their playoff hopes in time for Week 13, including Ben Roethlisberger.
“Ben threw the ball yesterday, and he’ll take steps, maybe, toward playing this week. We’ll leave the door open for him,” head coach Mike Tomlin said in his weekly press conference on the South Side. “Right now, Charlie Batch is our quarterback, and we’re looking to put together a plan that complements his strengths.”
Whatever the plan has been the past two weeks, it clearly isn’t working. Under Batch and Byron Leftwich–who is also closer to returning after suffering a rib injury of his own–the Steelers’ offense has managed one touchdown apiece in consecutive losses to the Ravens and Cleveland Browns, and the Steelers took the air out of the ball for much of Sunday’s game.
In that time, Roethlisberger has presided over the birth of his first child, Ben Roethlisberger Jr., and recovered–primarily–from a rib injury suffered in a Monday night win over Kansas City that he later deemed life-threatening.
Meanwhile, two of Batch’s protectors, tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert, are out, and Tomlin said ankle surgery is a possibility for the latter, who has been placed on injured reserve. Kelvin Beachum, once again, will play as a result this approaching Sunday.
On the plus side, Adams’ fellow 2012 draftee, highly-touted Stanford guard David DeCastro, is slated to make his regular-season debut, and Tomlin suggested a recent knee injury to Willie Colon has subsided.
The running game managed just 49 yards behind the makeshift line Sunday, and the passing game, which was among the most successful in the league with Big Ben at the trigger, has slipped to 15th in the NFL in yardage per game.
Aside from the news of a possible Roethlisberger comeback, perhaps the best thing to come out of the weekly presser is the imminent return of 2011 team MVP Antonio Brown, and the fact that safety Troy Polamalu has returned to practice, with, as Tomlin said, “the possibility of playing.”
The Steelers, who still top the league in total defense and pass defense, are 5-4 in games former All-Pro Polamalu has missed with his calf injury, and, essentially, a .500 team all-time without him.
Brown, who presumably becomes much more valuable after the sudden demotion of Mike Wallace, told ROOT Sports there is “definitely a strong possibility” he will play in Baltimore. The wide receiver/return specialist has over 600 all-purpose yards and one TD to his credit this year.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, due to an ankle sprain, will be replaced by Jason Worilds against the Ravens, Tomlin added. Worilds had four solo tackles, two sacks, and one pass defended against Cleveland.
Kickoff between the Steelers and Ravens is at 4:15 Sunday on KDKA-TV.