Big Ben likely to start Sunday despite concussion

Published Nov. 24, 2009 9:29 p.m. EST

Ben Roethlisberger's fourth concussion since 2006 apparently won't put him on the bench.

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Roethlisberger will play Sunday in Baltimore as long as he continues to pass post-concussion tests, coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. The tests measure a player's memory and reflexes, among other factors, before and after he has been injured.

"He felt normal. He felt fine," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger's first round of testing. "The battery of tests that he took showed that he had no symptoms. We'll continue to monitor his condition and where he is on a day-to-day basis and let that guide our decision-making."

Roethlisberger's head inadvertently struck the knee of the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson while he was being dropped for a 1-yard loss in overtime during Pittsburgh's 27-24 loss in Kansas City on Sunday. It was the third time Roethlisberger has gotten a concussion during an NFL game.

"It could be characterized as a mild concussion, but I hesitate to use the word mild because concussions are not anything to be taken mildly," Tomlin said. "We're proceeding with caution. ... If any symptoms re-occur, or he feels less than fine, we're going to act appropriately."

The Steelers (6-4) apparently are so convinced their franchise quarterback will be OK, they plan to go into the AFC North game with only Roethlisberger and second-year player Dennis Dixon at the position. They will sign a third quarterback, but he won't be a veteran who is capable of stepping in and playing immediately.

Dixon, a former Oregon quarterback, moved up the depth chart when backup Charlie Batch broke his left wrist after replacing Roethlisberger in overtime. Dixon has thrown only one pass in two NFL seasons.

"I've been very pleased with Dennis' progress as a third quarterback," Tomlin said. "That's different, of course, than playing against the Baltimore Ravens on national TV. No question we would have to do some things to help him if he plays in this game."

Batch will have surgery on Wednesday. He is expected to be out two to four weeks and, at least for now, the Steelers are keeping him on their 53-man roster.

The Steelers, already playing without star safety Troy Polamalu (left knee ligament) and defensive end Aaron Smith (right rotator cuff), also lost left guard Chris Kemoeatu with a sprained right medial collateral ligament in Kansas City. He is expected to be out for a couple of weeks, and will be replaced by non-drafted rookie Ramon Foster.

Tomlin isn't ruling Polamalu out of the Ravens game, calling him "questionable, at best," - just as he did last week, when it was obvious Polamalu wouldn't play. The five-time Pro Bowl safety could sit out additional games past this one with his second knee injury this season.

Polamalu has missed five games and he played only a few plays in a sixth, a 18-12 loss to Cincinnati on Nov. 15. The Steelers lost four of those games.

While the Steelers seem confident Roethlisberger will be fine, he had one of the worst games of his six-season career the last time he played only a week after sustaining a concussion.

Roethlisberger was injured while being sacked by multiple Falcons defenders during a 41-38 overtime loss in Atlanta on Oct. 22, 2006. He came back a week later to throw four interceptions, two for touchdowns, as the Steelers lost 20-13 to the Raiders, who went 2-14 that season.

Roethlisberger also received concussions during his June 2006 motorcycle crash and the Steelers' meaningless 31-0 victory over Cleveland in the final game of last season. He benefited from a week off before the playoffs and did not miss any time as the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.