Steelers expect Roethlisberger to go vs. Ravens despite concussion

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

The quarterback will play Sunday in Baltimore as long as he continues to pass post-concussion tests, Pittsburgh Steelers 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 Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson while the quarterback was being dropped for a 1-yard loss during overtime of the Steelers' 27-24 loss last Sunday. It was the third time that Roethlisberger has sustained 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 showdown against the Ravens with only Roethlisberger and second-year pro Dennis Dixon at the position. Pittsburgh will sign a third quarterback, but he won't be a veteran who is capable of stepping in and immediately playing.

Dixon 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 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, who already are 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. Kemoeatu is expected to be out for a couple of weeks, and he 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 that the five-time Pro Bowl safety wouldn't play. Polamalu could sit out additional games past this one with his second knee injury of the season.

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

While the Steelers seem confident that Roethlisberger will be fine, he had one of the worst games of his six-season career the last time he played only one 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 one week later to throw four interceptions, two for touchdowns, as the Steelers lost 20-13 to the Oakland 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 the Cleveland Browns in the 2008 regular-season finale. The second time, he benefited from a week off before the playoffs and didn't miss any time as the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.

Also Tuesday, the Steelers made two moves intended to improve their sagging special teams, signing linebacker Rocky Boiman and cornerback Corey Ivy to undisclosed terms. Boiman, an eight-year veteran, and Ivy, a nine-year veteran, have played special teams throughout their careers.

The Steelers have permitted an NFL-high four kickoff-return touchdowns in their last five games. Since 1994, the only other team to allow as many kickoff-return scores in a single season was the Minnesota Vikings, who also gave up four in 1998.

The Steelers released linebacker Donovan Woods, who was activated off the practice squad only last week, and cornerback Keiwan Ratliff to make roster room.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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