On the Steelers: 2 veteran QBs visit headquarters for tests
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As Ben Roethlisberger spoke at length for the first time since his head injury, as Charlie Batch recovered from surgery, as Tyler Palko took his first snaps with the team, the Steelers' quarterback situation remained in flux.
The Steelers entertained two veteran quarterbacks yesterday at their South Side training facility -- Patrick Ramsey and Todd Bouman -- as they look at possibly adding one to their roster.
If they do sign one, it would mean they do not think Batch would return in that earlier time period of two to four weeks that coach Mike Tomlin estimated he would miss. Batch injured his left wrist Sunday. It also might mean the Steelers are not confident that Dennis Dixon could handle the starter's role over a longer haul if something were to happen to Roethlisberger.
Ramsey, 30, and Bouman, 37, were inspected by Steelers doctors to determine their physical status and also by their coaches and scouts.
• Game: Steelers (6-4) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5), 8:20 p.m.
• Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
• TV: WPXI.
Ramsey, a former first-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 2002, was released Oct. 23 by the Tennessee Titans. He played in Denver last season as a backup.
Bouman most recently was with the Baltimore Ravens for two months last season and also was a backup in St. Louis in 2007.
Roethlisberger went through a second full practice yesterday after he left the game Sunday in Kansas City in overtime with a concussion. Since then, he said he passed every test given to him.
"The doctors have all taken about a thousand tests, and I passed them all with flying colors, so that's the good news," said Roethlisberger, who added he thinks the tests are done, but "if they tell me we need another one, just to keep doing it, I'll keep doing it."
Roethlisberger said he wanted to go back into the game in Kansas City if it had been extended, but "I don't know if I would have been allowed."
He remembers the hit and what he was trying to do when he scrambled for yards, hit the ground and took a knee to the head from Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.
"I was trying to actually get down and his knee -- I think he even kind of got hurt on the play as well," Roethlisberger said. "No question, it was not dirty at all.
"It just felt like I got hit pretty hard, and I just kind of said, 'Let me catch my breath real quick,' and by that time the trainers were out there and I didn't have a chance to get up."
Roethlisberger said hits like that are part of playing his position, and he has other bumps and bruises on his body that are not talked about as often.
"It's part of the nature of the beast playing this game. It's a violent, physical, contact sport that you know there's a chance you're going to get hit and dinged," he said.
"It comes with it. I'm not worried because we have the best doctors ... . If they give me clearance, they're the professionals. They're the ones who know. If I can go out and pass thousands of these tests and show that I'm fine, I'm not worried about it."
The Steelers' defense culminated its long, steady climb from a No. 20 ranking after the opener to No. 1 in the NFL this week after 10 games, right where they ended last season.
It has been a bittersweet moment, however, because the team is on a two-game losing streak, partly because that defense was unable to stop the Chiefs in the fourth quarter and overtime Sunday and could not contain the Cincinnati Bengals Nov. 15 as they broke a fourth-quarter tie with field-goal drives of 50 and 54 yards to win by six.
It's also a defense that has lost leads of seven points to Chicago and 11 points in the first game against Cincinnati, both in the fourth quarter, both losses. This season, the Steelers have allowed 106 points through the first three quarters and 78 in the fourth and overtime. Of that point total, four touchdowns yielded were the result of kickoff returns and two came off interceptions.
"We gave up too many big plays last week," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau acknowledged. "We're just working to get better, that's what we do. Like I said earlier in the year, I think this defense has a chance to be a pretty good defense, and we're working toward that goal."
One failing by the defense has been the low number of turnovers. The Steelers are tied for 25th in the NFL in net turnovers at minus-five. They have recovered six fumbles and have eight interceptions -- none by their cornerbacks. The dropped interception has almost been as frustrating to them as the returned kickoff for touchdown.
Coach Mike Tomlin made it a goal this week to increase those turnovers, but how that is done went unsaid.
"I wish I knew or I'd damn sure have our numbers higher," LeBeau said. "But we need to have more turnovers. Right now, that's an area we must do better in."
Safety Ryan Clark offered the simplest solution, although it may not be the easiest: "We have to learn how to catch."
"I had my hand on the ball, two hands on the ball," Clark said of his drop in Kansas City. "Basically caught it and let Chris Chambers break it up. Ike [Taylor] makes a great play, and it comes out on the ground. That's two right there you have to make, and you should have."
Players who usually would not say certain things in the locker room sometimes cannot help themselves when they get on a radio show. Such was the case Wednesday night, when nose guard Casey Hampton joined defensive back Deshea Townsend and host Ken Laird on their weekly show on ESPN 1250.
Hampton said he did not like the play call of the pitch to Mewelde Moore on third-and-2 at the Kansas City 35 in overtime Sunday.
"It's unbelievable, man," Hampton said of that play. "We were running the ball ... I'm not a coach, but I just didn't like the play call. But who am I?"
Television cameras showed Hampton wave his hand in disgust on the sideline after the Chiefs broke through on the wide pitch and spilled Moore for a 3-yard loss.
"You get caught up in those moments; I'm not going to apologize for it. It was what it was at the time. And I still don't like it. It didn't work. If it would have worked I would have been right there cheering the way I was mad, so it goes both ways," he said.
Hampton, in the last season of his contract, also said he does not want the Steelers to put the franchise tag on him, even if the price would be $12 million for the 2010 season.
"I don't want that. I don't want that," said Hampton, who said he would not mind playing for Bill Cowher for Hampton's hometown Houston Texans next season -- a reference to speculation about the former Steelers coach's plans.
Nevertheless Hampton said he wants to return to play for the Steelers, and he said they've told him they want him back.
"Ain't no question I want to be here. It's all I know, but, at the same time just as it is a business for them, it's a business for me ...You never know what they're thinking. They tell me they want me here, I believe they want me here, and I want to be here. Hopefully I'll be here next year."