PITTSBURGH (AP) — For the third consecutive game, the Steelers will be without their star quarterback. At least it appears as if they’ll have the quarterback of their defense and the reigning team MVP back on the field.
Ben Roethlisberger will not play Sunday in Baltimore, meaning Charlie Batch will make his second consecutive start at quarterback for the Steelers (6-5), who have lost each of the first two games Roethlisberger missed.
Unlike a defeat at home two weeks ago to the rival Ravens (9-2) and an upset loss this past Sunday in Cleveland, however, the Steelers likely will have safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Antonio Brown in uniform and active.
Polamalu and Brown both practiced fully all week and are listed as probable.
Brown, voted MVP by his teammates last season, confirmed he will play against the Ravens. But he did add, “I’m definitely sore, definitely feeling it right now.”
Brown was knocked out of a 24-20 win over the New York Giants Nov. 5 due to an ankle injury. He was walking gingerly in the locker room.
“But you’ve got to persevere,” Brown said, “and get there and take care of myself. I don’t want to put a percent on (how the ankle feels). I’m just relying on my spirit right now. I’m looking forward to Sunday, excited for the opportunity to get back out there.”
Brown expects to add to the four career passes he’s caught from Batch, who threw three interceptions in a 20-14 loss in Cleveland that dropped him to 5-3 as a starter over 11 seasons in Pittsburgh.
Roethlisberger threw briefly early in practice Friday but was in a sweat suit watching by the time practice ended. He will miss a third consecutive game since sustaining a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib in a 16-13 win against Kansas City Nov. 12.
With top backup Byron Leftwich (ribs) also out, the Steelers turn again to the Batch, 37.
“He’s getting more and more comfortable. You could tell last week — that first day of practice — he was kind of a little off,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “But this entire week, he’s had three good practices, and we’re looking forward to it hopefully transitioning to the game.”
Polamalu, a five-time All Pro, has not played a full game since the opener in Denver because of a right calf injury. He returned to play against the Philadelphia Eagles Oct. 7 but left in the first quarter when he re-aggravated the injury. Without him, though, the Steelers have ascended to No. 1 rankings in total defense and in passing defense.
“It means a lot (having Polamalu back), getting leadership and stability out there again,” defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau said. “Our guys have done a good job without him. I don’t think he will be able to be out there every snap but he is going to be able to take a significant role.
“Let’s face it: When you can have him on the field, it’s a plus for us.”
Also ruled out for the Ravens game is linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Woodley left Sunday’s game in Cleveland during the first quarter with an ankle injury. Fill-in Jason Worilds had two sacks the rest of the game to give him a team-high five.
With rookie Mike Adams (ankle) not available Sunday, the Steelers turn to their third-string right tackle, rookie seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum. That might not be the only shuffling along the offensive line. Guard Willie Colon is listed as questionable due to a knee injury that flared up late last week and prevented him from playing in Cleveland.
Colon returned to practice — albeit in a limited capacity — on Friday after sitting out the Wednesday and Thursday. If he cannot play, the Steelers will move All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey to left guard and start Doug Legursky at center.
Pouncey’s athleticism makes him a good fit for guard, a position the Steelers originally considered putting him at after drafting him in 2010.
“I’m going do what’s best for the team,” Pouncey said. “The coaches asked me to do it, and I said, `Not a problem.’ It’s football. I’m an O-lineman, and I’ve got to adjust to it. It’s still run blocking and pass blocking. It’s not like I’m running screens or anything.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)