Bye lands at perfect time for ailing Steelers
PITTSBURGH (AP) The bye week looks like it landed at a perfect time for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers suffered their second straight lopsided defeat on Sunday, this one at home against the New England Patriots. But Pittsburgh played without five regular contributors because of injury, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive end Cameron Heyward.
The Steelers are hopeful for rest and recovery before a road game at AFC North rival Baltimore on Nov. 6.
''We need to get all the pieces back together,'' offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert said Monday. ''We have a lot of bodies dinged up. We have to get some rest, heal up and really take advantage of this bye week.''
Gilbert missed the previous three weeks with an ankle injury. He said he wanted to return against New England, but the ankle didn't respond the way he had hoped. Gilbert expects to be back after the bye against the Ravens.
It's unclear when Roethlisberger will return.
Roethlisberger underwent surgery and was expected to miss four to six weeks after he injured his left knee against Miami. Roethlisberger didn't speak to reporters on Monday, but he was spotted in the locker room walking without a limp. He also jogged onto the field Sunday to greet his defensive teammates prior to the game against New England.
That's encouraging to Gilbert, who prefers to see Roethlisberger return when he's 100 percent so he doesn't suffer a setback.
''I see him walking around and he's been looking good,'' Gilbert said. ''We'll see how he's progressing. Whenever he's ready, I'm sure he'll be out there, first thing, because we need him.''
The defense could use a boost from Heyward, who missed the previous two weeks with a hamstring injury.
''I feel good one day and take a step back the next,'' Heyward said. ''I have to be smart and keep progressing. I have to take it day by day because I don't know how I'll be feeling in two days. I just have to make sure I'm pushing myself to the extent where I'm ready to go when I get back.''
It's a frustrating situation for Heyward, who previously played in 85 consecutive regular-season games.
''I'm just doing everything possible,'' Heyward said. ''I want to get back for my teammates because I feel like I can contribute and help out.''
The Steelers could also potentially see a boost offensively from tight end Ladarius Green, who signed a four-year $20 million contract in the spring, but started the season on the physically unable to perform list and continues to work his way back from offseason ankle surgery.
Green said Monday that he has been medically cleared to return to practice, but he hasn't been cleared by head coach Mike Tomlin. The team has 21 days once Green begins practicing to determine whether to put him on the 53-man roster.
Green would like to return to practice, but he will follow the coach's decision.
''It would be nice to get a little practice under my belt,'' Green said. ''(Tomlin) knows I want to be out there, but it's up to him to do what's best for the team.''
The Steelers anticipate extra rest from the bye could help wide receiver Markus Wheaton return to the lineup against Baltimore. Wheaton is dealing with a lingering shoulder injury sustained in the preseason.
Wheaton missed the first two games of the season, but returned to catch passes in the next three. He suffered a setback and missed the previous two games against Miami and New England.
''Anytime you take a step backwards it's frustrating,'' Wheaton said.
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