Roethlisberger to rest as Steelers host Rams

The choice is never really much of a choice for Ben

Roethlisberger.

Given the option to play or rest his badly sprained left ankle

on Saturday against struggling St. Louis, the Pittsburgh Steelers

quarterback would rather take the field regardless of the pain or

the risk.

”I’m in the here and now,” Roethlisberger said. ”That’s where

we are coaches and players and a team.”

Then again, Roethlisberger allowed, it’s never his call.

”That’s a coach’s decision, as always,” he said.

And coach Mike Tomlin decided to go with veteran backup Charlie

Batch.

A playoff spot already clinched, the Steelers (10-4) will try to

keep their hopes for an AFC North title alive with Batch, who is

4-2 as a spot starter over the last six seasons.

Yet they allow they’ll approach the game differently if Batch is

under center. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians typically comes up

with two game plans, one for Roethlisberger and another for the

37-year-old Batch, just in case Roethlisberger can’t play.

On Saturday, it’s time for Plan B.

Though he lacks Roethlisberger’s big-time arm, Batch can still

get it done. He went 1-1 last season while filling in as

Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension for violating the

league’s personal conduct policy.

”We can still make big plays with (Batch),” wide receiver Mike

Wallace said. ”But instead of catching the ball 50 yards down the

field, maybe we do it 15 yards down the field and do stuff after

the catch.”

And with Roethlisberger’s ankle limiting his ability to get out

of the pocket, Batch gives the Steelers more flexibility in

playcalling.

Though he passed for 330 yards in a 20-3 loss to San Francisco,

Roethlisberger acknowledged the 49ers quickly figured out what was

coming depending on how the team lined up. If he was under center,

it was a run. If he was in the shotgun, he was going to sling

it.

”I honestly think that’s probably why they deferred when they

won the toss,” Roethlisberger said. ”They were going to come

after me.”

St. Louis certainly figured to do the same with defensive end

Chris Long and his 13 sacks leading the way. Instead Long will

chase down Batch or third quarterback Dennis Dixon.

”(Batch and Dixons) are certainly more mobile,” St. Louis

defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. ”They have a little bit

more scrambling ability. Ben does a great job of getting away from

pressure, but that ankle I’m sure has been a problem for him.”

Roethlisberger doesn’t necessarily agree. Despite throwing the

ball 44 times in San Francisco and taking a handful of shots in the

process, the two-time Super Bowl winner wanted to play against the

Rams even if he was ”five percent” even if it adversely affected

his team’s postseason chances.

”I don’t go out there worrying about playing with an injury,”

he said. ”I don’t go out there worrying about getting hurt

worse.”

Now he won’t have to, making Saturday a battle of the

backups.

St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, didn’t practice this week

and appears likely to miss his fifth game of the season with a

sprained ankle of his own.

Still, like Roethlisberger, Bradford would prefer to be on the

field. It’s why he refused to be placed on season-ending injured

reserve even if the Rams are putting the finishing touches on an

eighth consecutive non-winning season.

”It’s my job, that’s why I’m here,” Bradford said. ”I’m here

to play football, I’m not here to ride the bike, I’m not here to

sit on the sideline.”

Yet the Rams will be heading to the sideline regardless when the

season ends on New Year’s Day. Not the Steelers, who have designs

of collecting a record seventh Lombardi Trophy.

To get to a ninth Super Bowl the team needs Roethlisberger as

healthy as possible and there’s no better treatment for a bum ankle

than rest.

”I think if you rest, you obviously can hopefully improve and

get yourself to a higher percentage but I like to be out there,”

Roethlisberger said.

Regardless of who is under center, the Rams are hoping to give

embattled coach Steve Spagnuolo a much-needed lift.

St. Louis is 10-36 in Spagnuolo’s three seasons and taken a

significant step back this year after going a respectable 7-9 in

2010.

A steady stream of impact players to the injured reserve list

hasn’t helped. The Rams are the league’s most anemic offense,

though running back Steven Jackson is 34 yards away from posting

his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season.

The streak is a testament to Jackson’s toughness, durability and

patience. St. Louis hasn’t made the playoffs since his rookie year

in 2004.

He believed then a trip to the postseason would become an annual

event. It has not, and there’s a chance the Rams will blow it up

and start all over again next year.

It’s one of the reasons Jackson has so much respect for the

Steelers.

”This team historically is one of the elite, year in and year

out,” Jackson said. ”They seem to always put a team together

that’s playoff worthy.”

This year’s group is no exception, even if the Steelers have

only been dominant in small spurts. That’s fine by them. There’s

still a chance to get it going, preferably with their franchise

quarterback healthy.

”We’re not concerned with that people are saying or what other

people are doing outside of the building,” safety Troy Polamalu

said. ”I will say this, the team that may win the Super Bowl lost

their last game, so we’ll see.”