Ben Roethlisberger emerged from a meeting with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin yesterday and promised everyone will see an improved quarterback and offense when he is able to resume playing.
Tomlin would not say what transpired between him and Roethlisberger at their morning meeting, but it appeared to have an effect on his quarterback.
"You know what? I have played sub-par football to date," Roethlisberger said. "It's time for that to change and it will change. I think as my performance changes, I think you'll see some changes in the offense because we'll be clicking more, we'll be making more completions and things will happen nice."
Roethlisberger may have to wait to put his new approach into action because it is possible he will not play Sunday. He did not practice yesterday and Tomlin said he will be evaluated daily.
An MRI Tuesday showed that his right shoulder, slightly separated in the season opener and re-injured Monday in Washington, essentially remained in the same condition as it has been.
"I think what happened, it was getting a lot better and then we went back to square one," Roethlisberger said about the hit he took when he sneaked 1 yard for a touchdown late in the first half of the Steelers' 23-6 victory against the Redskins. "I played through it before, and we'll do it again."
He also acknowledged that the brace on his left thumb is for support because a ligament was torn in the Steelers' Oct. 26 loss to the New York Giants.
"The doctor told me I'll probably wear this brace for eight weeks, practically till the end of the season. It feels better, but you have to keep it on to keep your thumb from bending all the way back."
Byron Leftwich replaced Roethlisberger to start the second half Monday night and completed 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards, one touchdown and a 145.8 passer rating. Roethlisberger was asked yesterday if it would not be wise to sit out this week, including the game against Indianapolis, to give his sore right shoulder a rest.
"You all want me to take a week off, don't you?" he said. "It seems like everyone's saying that to me. We took a week off for the bye week, and it still didn't get to 100 percent, so I don't think it would help. It's that time of year, we're halfway, it's the stretch for me, and it's time to start playing better for me."
Roethlisberger has followed his best statistical season with one that cannot match it through the first half. He has 10 touchdown passes, eight interceptions, a record pace of 26 sacks, the lowest completion percent at 57.6 of his career and a 79.6 passer rating. He set the Steelers' record last season when he posted a 104.1 rating.
Tomlin said if Roethlisberger promised to play better in the second half of the season, he's all for it.
"Ben has his opinion, and, if it is about helping us win and be better, then I concur," Tomlin said.
Roethlisberger's sore right shoulder could have something to do with his performance in the first half of the season. It was injured when Houston's Mario Williams stripped him of the ball in the opener. While he has not missed a game, he did not practice all week leading to the Steelers' 26-21 victory in Jacksonville Oct. 5, and Tomlin said a similar scenario could develop this week.
"Ideally, you do not like to do that, but we have done that this year," Tomlin said. "We may be in that situation again, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, I am just interested and excited to see what he potentially looks like in the morning, and then go from there. I am always going to be optimistic."
Leftwich won two of his five starts against Indianapolis during his time as Jacksonville's starting quarterback. He threw seven touchdowns and one interception in his six appearances against the Colts and posted a 98.69 passer rating.
The two quarterbacks have decidedly different styles, and receiver Santonio Holmes outlined them:
"One throws a lot harder [Leftwich] than the other. One [Roethlisberger] wants to be more precise, one puts the ball on the line."
Holmes said it took a little time to adjust to Leftwich's fastball because he does not work with him much in practice.
"You want to be able to catch those kinds of balls," said Holmes, who caught one in Washington for a touchdown. "It gives you a better opportunity to make plays after the catch."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published November 6, 2008 5:00 AM