The Steelers on Sunday appear ready to start their third different quarterback in four games.
Ben Roethlisberger Sr. looks ready to go.
Roethlisberger went through a full practice Wednesday for the first time since he left the Nov. 12 game against Kansas City with shoulder and rib injuries, and as long as there are no setbacks, he will make his first start in nearly a month against San Diego in Heinz Field.
"I thought it was a positive day for Ben," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after practice. "He threw the ball around both vertically and horizontally. I thought the ball had good velocity, particularly in a few instances. It was positive. ... I saw him make the necessary throws.''
Roethlisberger became a father during his absence when Ben Jr. was born two weeks ago, and the Steelers stumbled to consecutive losses without him. Byron Leftwich started in a loss to Baltimore in which two of his ribs were broken. Charlie Batch started in a loss at Cleveland.
But Batch and the Steelers put a halt to the skid with a 23-20 upset victory Sunday in Baltimore that will turn over a 7-5 record to Roethlisberger as he leads the team on a stretch run the Steelers hope will secure a playoff berth.
Tomlin said the next test for Roethlisberger will be to see how he feels today after going through a full practice.
Said Roethlisberger: "It's cold out there, so that doesn't help. There is a little bit of pain and tightness. We aren't worried about that feeling right now."
He has never missed four games in a row because of injury.
Charlie Batch, on his 38th birthday, said he also wondered whether Sunday's game in Baltimore would be his final NFL start, but not until after it was over.
"You look back and you say maybe there is a possibility that Ben is going to start this week, and if he does, I won't start. Bottom line. So you always are going to look at that and think is this your last game starting or not?
"There could have been a time this year where maybe I didn't start at all if he didn't get injured. You just don't know how that whole thing plays out. When you're a backup there are times that you may start a game during the season or there may be years before you get a start. You just don't know how the whole thing unfolds."
At the end of the game, Batch and Roethlisberger shared a long, emotional hug on the sideline.
"That was in the game and something that when you look at it, you're playing, you leave everything on the field. The game is emotional."
It appears Batch will not get a chance to start a third game in a row for the first time since he started eight in a row for the Detroit Lions in the 2001 season.
"As long as Ben is ready to go, he's going to go," Batch said. "You always want to play, but my role is the backup. So, if he's ready to play you can't be sad about that. Ben is the guy. So, whenever Ben is ready to go he's going to be out there and he's going to do everything in his power to be out there."
Actually, Batch will play a different role this week. He will serve as Roethlisberger's backup for the first time since last season. He had been the No. 3 quarterback before Roethlisberger's injury, behind Leftwich, whose ribs have not healed well enough for him to play.
Cortez Allen will make his first NFL start Sunday, and he and fellow cornerback Curtis Brown will be on the field at the same time for one of the few times since they were drafted in 2011.
Allen will start for injured Ike Taylor, whose streak of playing in 135 consecutive games will end because of a hairline fracture to his right ankle.
"Replacing Ike or stepping in for him is a big shoe to fill," said Allen, a fourth-round pick from The Citadel. "I have a lot of respect for him and just what he brings to the field and outside the field he's my mentor, in a sense, as far as the game is concerned."
Allen also will move to his previous position in the slot when the Steelers play a nickel defense, and Brown will play on the outside.
Allen expects Philip Rivers to target him Sunday, just as the Ravens tried to do in Baltimore.
"It's the new guy. They're going to try to go at him. I'm prepared for it. I'm prepared for it each week. It's something that you always have to be ready of, every down that you play, you have to play as if it's coming to you and you can't take plays off."
Tomlin compared Allen and Brown to how two receivers from the 2010 draft class pushed each other, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
"Cortez took a step in terms of being able to distinguish himself as a defender," Tomlin said. "He's grown over the course of the season. I think more than anything, the physical talent has been there. I think he's grown in terms of awareness, and particularly awareness in situational football and being able to put himself in position to make the necessary plays to get us off the field. We understand what comes with his position, particularly in third-down situations.
"Curtis, of course, is being given an opportunity to show what he's capable of. He's continued to work and improve and made some plays for us a week ago and we expect him to do the same. They're both talented young guys who are continuing to improve and prove that the stage isn't too big for them.
"Obviously, we need them to answer the bell as we continue to push into a territory that we haven't been in since I've been here."
• A large group of players did not practice Wednesday: Mike Adams (ankle), Antonio Brown (ankle), Ryan Clark (hip), Willie Colon (knee), Troy Polamalu (day off), Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder), Ike Taylor (ankle), Mike Wallace (knee) and LaMarr Woodley (ankle). Will Johnson, who left the game in Baltimore with a concussion, went through a full practice.
• The Steelers worked out cornerback Justin King, who played at Gateway High and Penn State. King, drafted in the fourth round by the Rams in 2008, was cut by Indianapolis after their fifth game this season.Steelers - mobilehome
First Published December 6, 2012 5:00 AM