BALTIMORE -- Despite national reports to the contrary, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was "absolutely not" cleared medically to play against the Baltimore Ravens, a team source told the Post-Gazette.
A report on CBSSports.com said Roethlisberger was cleared medically to do as much as he wanted this week and did little but throw on the sideline. The report added that Roethlisberger's lack of activity "surprised his teammates and frustrated others by not pushing to practice more."
But the Steelers knew early last week Roethlisberger wasn't going to be able to play against the Ravens. But they held out some hope he might miraculously get better, which is why coach Mike Tomlin said they were "leaving the door open" for him to play.
But several offensive players knew early in the week that Charlie Batch, not Roethlisberger, would play against the Ravens.
Roethlisberger has a chance to return Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, but that medical determination will not be made until the middle of the week at the earliest.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu -- playing for the first time after missing seven games with a calf injury -- had a quiet return and was credited with just two tackles. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau spelled him frequently with Will Allen.
"I feel good," Polamalu said after the game.
Teammates were thrilled to have Polamalu back. "It was fun," safety Ryan Clark said. Added nose tackle Casey Hampton, "It's always nice to have him out there. You know what you're going to get out of him. You know he's going to make a big play when it's time. Just to have him down the stretch, we know we're going to need him 'cause it's time for us to make a run. It's definitely cool to have him back."
The Ravens were disappointed after the loss but hardly despondent. That's because, with their 9-3 record, they still have a two-game lead over the Steelers (7-5) and Cincinnati Bengals (7-5).
"This game is not going to make or break us," running back Ray Rice said. Added wide receiver Anquan Boldin, "A loss doesn't change who we are. We're still going to win this division. We'll be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs."
Not only was Rashard Mendenhall demoted to third-string halfback by Tomlin, he was deactivated for the game. It's the first time in his career he has been a healthy scratch. Tomlin likely did it because he wanted to dress eight offensive lineman instead of the normal seven. That was made necessary because one of those he dressed, Willie Colon, is impaired by a knee injury, which is why he did not start at left guard. Another, rookie David DeCastro, dressed for the first time this season after he was activated from injured reserve Monday and he did not start.
Colon said the decision that he would not start was made by the team on Saturday.
Other inactives: QB Byron Leftwich, Roethlisberger, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, LB LaMarr Woodley, OL Mike Adams and WR Jerricho Cotchery. All but Van Dyke are hurt.
Inactives for Baltimore: CB Jimmy Smith, CB Chris Johnson, LB Dannell Ellerbe, OL Ramon Harewood, WR Deonte Thompson, TE Ed Dickson, DT Bryan Hall.
Heath Miller led the Steelers with 97 yards on five receptions to remain the team leader with 56 catches and with 613 yards is just three from tying Mike Wallace for the lead.
He also moved into ninth place in team career receiving yards with 3,961.
Rookie Kelvin Beachum did a good job in his first start, at right tackle. He had no penalties and while Batch was sacked twice, one was clearly a coverage sack.
"He did a great job for us in his first start, in a hostile environment against a good team,'' Miller said. "He stepped up. I haven't analyzed the film but the game wasn't too big for him."
The Ravens' defense came into the game having recorded 12 sacks in the previous three games. They had just two Sunday against a patchwork Steelers offensive line.
Despite Baltimore's poor resume for defending the run this season (the Ravens came into the game ranked 26th in the league), offensive coordinator Todd Haley still had his backup backup quarterback pass 11 more times than the Steelers ran (37-26) Sunday.
"We didn't care who their quarterback was," said Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. I look at is as, we let some things get away. We should have stepped on their throat and choked them when we had a chance and we didn't do it."
Seven of the past eight Steelers-Ravens regular-season games have been decided by three points.
The Steelers victory snapped a three-game losing streak to the rival Ravens, against whom the Steelers have never lost four in a row.
The Steelers defense got two takeaways Sunday on Ryan Clark's interception and Ziggy Hood's recovery of a Harrison-forced Flacco fumble. It was the first time the defense got more than one turnover since Oct. 7 against Philadelphia.
The 71,442 in attendance was the second-largest crowd in the history of M&T Bank Stadium. The only larger crowd to watch the Ravens play at home came Dec. 14, 2008 when 75,502 watched them play the Steelers.Steelers - mobilehome
Gene Collier and Ron Cook also contributed to this report.