On the Steelers: Tomlin expects Roethlisberger to play

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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is OK -- this time, really, coach Mike Tomlin says -- Dennis Dixon's play at quarterback Sunday could prompt the Steelers to use him on occasion, receiver Hines Ward turned to Facebook to explain himself, and offenses probably will continue to target cornerback William Gay.

Tomlin conducted a spirited news conference yesterday that even included an explanation for his promise to "unleash hell here in December."

First, the quarterback: He's fine, or so the Steelers say.

"Ben hadn't experienced any resurface of any discomfort from his concussion, really, since Friday," Tomlin said. "All indications are he'll be a full participant [at practice today] and ultimately play in the game on Sunday. All the rest of the things are minor -- bumps and bruises that come with playing football."

That supposedly was the case last week, too. Roethlisberger even said after practice Thursday that he was fine, would start and passed every post-concussion test "with flying colors."

Turns out, he started having headaches after Wednesday's practice and they continued throughout the week, Tomlin said. That, and not backup Charlie Batch's broken wrist, was why the coach invited veteran quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey and Todd Bouman to town Thursday.

Tomlin said he discussed Roethlisberger's case with Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon who suggested the quarterback not play. The coach told Roethlisberger Saturday he would not play.

Tomlin plans to keep Dixon and Tyler Palko on the roster, but that could change today, Tomlin said.

And if Roethlisberger does develop headaches again?

"We're not anticipating him having headaches this week, but if he does, of course we'll act quickly," said Tomlin.

Putting out the fires

The coach had a talk Monday night with Hines Ward about his comments to NBC that the players were split "50-50" on whether Roethlisberger should have played Sunday night.

"I'm not overly concerned with discontent in the locker room," Tomlin said. "[Ward] assured me that this football team will be ready to prepare for and ultimately play Oakland when we come in here [today]."

Ward called Tomlin. Then Ward called Roethlisberger.

"I trust that both of those men, or anyone else potentially involved in this thing, would be professionals and quell whatever potential problems or issues may have occurred," Tomlin said.

Then Ward turned to his Facebook page.

"I just finished an extensive conversation with Ben," Ward wrote. "We spoke about the interview in which I made the #1 mistake in doing a interview, I did it based off of emotions. It's interesting how people interpreted my interview ... I would never question a man's toughness playing in a STEELER unif. I didn't mean to cause such a stir. My frustration was based on the fact that this was a big game for us to stay in the playoff picture and having Ben out there gave us our best opp to win in Balt. I was frustrated because there was no indication of ... Ben not being able to play because he practiced a normal routine ... .

"In the locker room some questions came about playing with a concussion, that is where my 50/50 comment came from based on players opinions. Some say they've played after having a concussion and some say you don't wanna mess with that. [Half] of the guys on the team have had concussions at least once in their careers. ... But in football it's a tough decision on whether one should play or not play."

Tomlin said that, given a do-over, he would have explained the situation to his players more clearly.

And the rest of the story

• Gay had a tough go of it in Baltimore, with the Ravens seemingly targeting him. "[The opposition] may target him again this week," said Tomlin. "He better not blink."

• Tomlin's "unleash hell" line came from his favorite movie, Russell Crowe's "Gladiator," which he watched Saturday night. "I know they're going to fight," said Tomlin. "I know that how we got to 6-5 won't kill our spirit. ... That's why I spoke with the optimism that I spoke with after the game."

• Safety Troy Polamalu will be listed as "doubtful" this week and might miss the next two games. Batch might be able to return for Green Bay. But guard Chris Kemoeatu will try to practice this week and is now "questionable" for Sunday after missing one game with a sprained knee. Running back Mewelde Moore has swelling in an ankle and return man Stefan Logan has rib cartilage separation that may limit them in practice early, but Tomlin predicted they will play. Defensive end Travis Kirschke has some calf soreness after playing Sunday and may be limited in practice as well.

• Tomlin said he will consider using Dixon on occasion after his performance Sunday, his first action of the season.

For more on the Steelers, read Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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