Ben (Ben) headache? Steelers awaiting QB’s return

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—Big Ben’s headache apparently isn’t a big worry to his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates.

Ben Roethlisberger was on the practice field Tuesday, two days after sustaining his third concussion in as many years, but didn’t take any snaps or throw any passes. He probably won’t until he passes the tests the Steelers require of players who have undergone a concussion.

The Steelers won’t know until Sunday whether they will play the Colts, Dolphins or Chargers in a divisional playoff game Jan. 11 in Pittsburgh, so coach Mike Tomlin said there’s no need to rush Roethlisberger back.

“We have less urgency this time around because we don’t play Sunday, quite honestly,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We held him out today because we did that with a lot of veteran players. We will proceed slowly with him because we have that luxury. But we feel comfortable with where he is relative to Sunday and where he’s capable of being next week.”

The concussion tests compare a player’s ability to recall and react before and after a concussion. A player is not cleared to play until his scores return to where they were before he was injured.

“You take it every day until you start meeting your baseline scores,” said safety Troy Polamalu, who has had at least seven concussions during his football career.

Roethlisberger was injured Sunday when he was leveled by two Cleveland Browns players simultaneously after releasing a pass, causing him to strike his head on Heinz Field’s turf. The hit was similar to that in which he also received a concussion from being dropped by three Atlanta Falcons defenders in 2006.

Then, with the reigning Super Bowl champions off to a 2-4 start, Roethlisberger rushed back a week later to throw four interceptions—with two returned for touchdowns—in a 20-13 loss to Oakland. A week after that, he was intercepted three more times in a 31-20 loss to Denver despite throwing for 433 yards.

Coincidence or not, the only two concussions Roethlisberger is known to have received while with Pittsburgh came that year, easily the worst of his five NFL seasons. The first 2006 concussion occurred in a June motorcycle accident in which he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Roethlisberger’s teammates plan to go into their divisional game believing he will be the quarterback who has a 51-20 record as an NFL starter, not the one who had post-concussion problems in 2006.

“It’s not a concern. We’re not going off what’s happened in previous years or anything like that, we’re excited about the team we have, we’re excited about the position we’re in,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “The guy’s a winner. He’s going to come in and play good ball, I firmly believe that.”

Roethlisberger has not talked with reporters since being injured Sunday. He was taken to a hospital during the game and was not in the locker room following the 31-0 victory, and he left the Steelers’ facility Tuesday shortly after practice ended.

Tomlin isn’t second guessing himself for playing his quarterback, as well as most of his starters, in a meaningless game to keep them sharp and avoid having a three-week layoff before a playoff game. He rested regulars last year before a wild-card playoff loss to Jacksonville.

“We don’t have that luxury,” Tomlin said. “We don’t live in that world. I never second guess the decisions we make. We’re thoughtful in the process of coming to those decisions and when we make then, we live with them.”

The Steelers practice again Wednesday and Thursday before returning on Monday, and Tomlin isn’t ruling out Roethlisberger practicing either of those days.

With so many variables, Tomlin doesn’t plan to work on any specifics involving a possible opponent. The Steelers played all the AFC playoff teams this season except for Miami.

“We’re familiar with them,” Tomlin said. “There will be very few surprises from that standpoint when we find out who we play.”

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