‘I’m telling my boys No. 7 is play­ing’

Suggs ex­pects that in­jured Roeth­lis­berger will be un­der cen­ter Sun­day for Steel­ers

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

While Pitts­burgh Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin re­mained non­com­mit­tal about quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger’s avail­abil­ity for Sun­day’s game, Ravens out­side line­backer Ter­rell Suggs in­sists he knows ex­actly how the sit­u­a­tion will play out.

“You’ve got to un­der­stand, I saw this movie be­fore. He’s go­ing to act like, ‘Oh, I’m not play­ing. I don’t know. I did in­di­vid­ual to­day, I threw a lit­tle bit. I don’t still know,’ ” Suggs said Wed­nes­day. “And then he’s go­ing to walk his big [butt] out there and I’m go­ing to be like, ‘How are you do­ing, Ben­jamin?’ And he’ll be like, ‘What’s up, Siz­zle?’ And then it’s on. Don’t fall for that, though. I’m telling my boys No. 7 is play­ing, and not only that, he’s go­ing to try and light [us] up.”

Roeth­lis­berger had surgery Oct. 17 to re­pair a torn menis­cus in his left knee, and his re­turn date has been the sub­ject of great spec­u­la­tion since. The sit­u­a­tion isn’t unique to the Ravens or the Steel­ers. Roeth­lis­berger has missed at least one game in 10 of his 13 NFL sea­sons, and the Ravens have seem­ingly ben­e­fited the most from his ab­sences.

While Roeth­lis­berger has never missed a game in his ca­reer against the Cincin­nati Ben­gals and he’s missed only two ca­reer games against the Cleve­land Browns, the Su­per Bowl-win­ning quar­ter­back has been side­lined be­cause of in­juries or a sus­pen­sion for seven games against the Ravens.

With Roeth­lis­berger lead­ing their of­fense, the Steel­ers have beaten the Ravens in 11 of 20 meet­ings, in­clud­ing two of three play­off matchups. With Roeth­lis­berger out and ei­ther Tommy Mad­dox, Char­lie Batch, Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 2

Den­nis Dixon, By­ron Leftwich and Mike Vick un­der cen­ter, the Steel­ers are 1-6 against the Ravens and they haven’t scored more than 21 points in any of those games.

“That’s just how the ball bounces. That’s the na­ture of this game. In­juries are a part of it,” Tom­lin said Wed­nes­day in a con­fer­ence call with Bal­ti­more-area re­porters. “It’s our job to adapt and im­pro­vise and over­come. We’ve been in that cir­cum­stance in the past, and if we’re in that cir­cum­stance again, the stan­dard of ex­pec­ta­tion will re­main the same, and we un­der­stand that.”

Roeth­lis­berger, who hurt his knee in Pitts­burgh’s Oct. 16 loss to the Mi­ami Dol­phins and missed the next game against the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, started prac­tic­ing on a lim­ited ba­sis last week dur­ing the team’s lim­ited bye-week work­outs. He also has prac­ticed on a lim­ited ba­sis the past two days, and team­mates have praised the progress that the 34-yearold quar­ter­back has made.

“Ben is a cham­pion,” Steel­ers star wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown said in an­other con­fer­ence call. “Any­time he’s out there he’s al­ways look­ing great, but it’s all on how he feels and what’s the smart thing for him to do.”

Tom­lin still wants to see more be­fore he de­cides whether to start Roeth­lis­berger, or backup Landry Jones, in Sun­day’s key AFC North matchup at M&T Bank Sta­dium. The Steel­ers (4-3) have dropped two straight games and the Ravens (3-4) have lost four in a row, but the win­ner will be in first place in the divi­sion come Mon­day.

“It’s day-to-day at this point,” Tom­lin said on Roeth­lis­berger’s sta­tus. “We had some par­tic­i­pa­tion from him last week, and it was all pos­i­tive. But we’re re­ally just tak­ing it from a day-by-day stand­point. We’ve got some work sched­uled for him to­day. We’ll see how he han­dles that work, see what the re­ac­tion is to that work, Steel­ers quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger was in­jured in this game Oct. 16 and has not played since. and then kind of go from there.”

Tom­lin said the Steel­ers have a “great deal of con­fi­dence” in Jones, who made his third ca­reer start Oct. 23 in the loss to the Pa­tri­ots. A fourth-round pick by the Steel­ers out of Ok­la­homa in 2013, Jones com­pleted 29 of 47 pass­ing at­tempts against the Pa­tri­ots for 281 yards, one touch­down and one in­ter­cep­tion.

In 12 ca­reer ap­pear­ances, Jones has com­pleted 61 of 103 pass­ing at­tempts (59.2 per­cent) for 794 yards, four touch­down passes and five in­ter­cep­tions. But Jones lacks the game ex­pe­ri­ence of some of the other Steel­ers back­ups that the Ravens have seen in pre­vi­ous years in­stead of Roeth­lis­berger.

Mad­dox was in his ninth NFL sea­son when he started in place of Roeth­lis­berger, who was deal­ing with a knee in­jury, in a Nov. 20, 2005, over­time loss to the Ravens. Batch, who spent the ma­jor­ity of his 12-year ca­reer as an NFL backup, faced the Ravens three times as the starter in place of Roeth­lis­berger and even di­rected Pitts­burgh to a 23-20 vic­tory over them at M&T Bank Sta­dium in De­cem­ber 2012.

With Roeth­lis­berger nurs­ing a shoul­der in­jury in their Nov. 18, 2012, matchup at Heinz field, Leftwich, then in his ninth and fi­nal NFL sea­son, got the start. And last Oc­to­ber, Vick, in his 13th pro­fes­sional sea­son, faced the Ravens as Roeth­lis­berger dealt with a sprained knee.

The only young quar­ter­back to fill in against the Ravens was Dixon, who made his first ca­reer start on Nov. 29, 2009, as Roeth­lis­berger was re­cov­er­ing from a con­cus­sion. He com­pleted only 12 passes for 145 yards that day and the Ravens won, 20-17.

Close vic­to­ries have been the norm for the Ravens in games Roeth­lis­berger hasn’t started, but the past means noth­ing to Ravens coach John Har­baugh, who ex­pects the four-time Pro Bowl quar­ter­back to play, but said his team will also be pre­pared for Jones.

“Of course, Ben is more ex­pe­ri­enced in the of­fense,” Har­baugh said. “He has more tools at his dis­posal that would ap­pear when you watch the tape. We un­der­stand what those things are that he does. We have played them a lot. You can’t as­sume that if Landry Jones plays that he won’t have the abil­ity to do the same things. We’ll just have to see how it goes. We’ll be ready for ev­ery­thing Ben can do. If it’s not Ben — if it’s Landry Jones — then we’ll be pre­pared for that, too.”

Ravens cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith joined Suggs in the staunch be­lief that Roeth­lis­berger will be on the field Sun­day.

“There’s no ques­tion in my mind he’s play­ing. It’s not even up for de­bate. If he’s prac­tic­ing he’s play­ing,” Smith said. “Since I’ve been here, what I’ve learned about this guy, un­less he has no foot this week, I don’t think he’s not go­ing to be in the game.”

MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES

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