Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out of this weekend’s game with a serious rib injury coupled with a hurt shoulder, although one member of the Baltimore Ravens hinted Big Ben had the regeneration powers seen on another Sunday staple: the zombie series “The Walking Dead.”
“Until the ball is snapped, I’m preparing like he’s playing,” linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters at the team’s training facility on Wednesday. “I saw the guy play with a broken ankle. He came down here and we even broke his nose. The guy continued to play.”
Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday that he suffered a potentially life-threatening situation when a rib that protects the aorta separated in Monday night’s game. He also sustained a sprained right (throwing) shoulder in a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Earlier Wednesday, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said backup Byron Leftwich would be under center against the Ravens on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
“He’s out,” said Tomlin in attempt to tamp down speculation that Roethlisberger could play like in that game Suggs mentioned when the two-time Super Bowl winner led the Steelers to a 13-10 win with a fractured foot and broken nose in December 2010.
The first of two meetings over the next three weeks between the AFC North rivals will be without some familiar faces.
The Steelers likely will be without both Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu (calf) as they face the Ravens for the first time since the retirement of receiver Hines Ward. The Ravens are without the face of their franchise for more than a decade in linebacker Ray Lewis (torn triceps), along with cornerback Lardarius Webb (torn ACL).
“It’s going to have a little bit of a different feel,” Suggs said. “Once that whistle blows and the bullets become live, I don’t expect anything less than traditional Ravens-Steelers. It’s going to be that.”
Ravens running back Ray Rice agreed that while the cast may be different, the fervor won’t be.
“This is the week Ravens fans and Steelers fans always look forward to,” said Rice, whose Ravens trail the series 18-14 since the franchise moved to Baltimore before the 1996 season. “It’s one of those old-fashioned rivalries in football. In my five years, this has been one of the most fun games to play in. We draft a team on how we’re going to be able to compete against the Steelers.”
The Ravens have been without Lewis — who is holding out hope from a late-season return after surgery on Oct. 17 — and Webb for a month. Polamalu has seen action in two games this year and has been out since Week 5.
Roethlisberger’s injury is the freshest and obviously most troublesome for the Steelers. Leftwich, a former first-round pick, came into Monday night’s game in the third quarter and finished 7 for 14 for 73 yards in the Steelers’ 16-13 overtime victory over the Chiefs.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Byron and what he’s capable of,” Tomlin said. “That’s one of the reasons we laid this whole thing to bed (so early in the week). If there are less questions I need to answer in regard to that, we can focus on what’s in front of us.”
Leftwich will be starting his first game since Week 3 of the 2009 season when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s 24-25 as a starter.
“As far as who’s playing and who’s not, it’s going to be a battle,” Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. “These two teams hate each other. We are excited to play. We don’t care who is going to line up under center. You look at Byron Leftwich, he’s shown he knows how to win in this league. We can’t take him for granted.”
Meanwhile, Suggs wasn’t buying a Steelers team minus Big Ben.
“I expect him (to play),” Suggs said. “We are going to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t think our game plan is going to change because of who’s under center. If 7 (Roethlisberger) is under center or whoever we get, we’re just going to play football.”