Tomlin in bind over Big Ben's ankle injury
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Mike Tomlin has another one of those decisions that fall only in the lap of a head coach -- whether to play quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Monday night in San Francisco.
Roethlisberger said he will do everything he can to play and, indeed, his left ankle temporarily was put in a cast Thursday. The cast was then removed, and it will be used as a mold for a New Jersey company to make a plastic brace.
He would wear the brace in practice and, the Steelers hope, in the game against the 49ers.
Tomlin's decision is threefold: a. Will Roethlisberger be able to perform well enough to help his team? b. Can he move on his feet well enough to protect himself by warding off a potential killer hit? c. Does he risk making the injury worse by playing?
"I don't know if it's my decision," Roethlisberger said. "I'm going to do everything I can to be out there. It's probably more on them. So, if I'm not out there, it's probably because they didn't feel comfortable with me being out there, protecting myself or whatever it is.
"They know better than I do. I can just tell them whether I think I can go or not, and I think I can go all the time. I'm going to do everything I can to be out there for this team."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Charlie Batch will start if Roethlisberger does not. He would like to see Roethlisberger practice by Saturday if he is going to play but said Tomlin could wait until early Monday to decide if he plays.
"We'd like to see that, but there's still 48 hours where that thing can just keep getting better and better and we'll just wait and see," Arians said.
Roethlisberger's ankle was injured with six minutes left in the second quarter Dec. 8 against Cleveland. He returned to play in the second half but was limited in what he could do, one reason the Steelers ran Rashard Mendenhall four times without success after getting a first down at the Browns 2.
He said it feels worse today than it did in that second half, and it causes him more problems than when his right foot was broken and he continued to play last season wearing a shoe with a metal plate in it. His left foot also was sprained Oct. 2 in Houston and he wore a shoe with a metal plate for a few games after that.
"Putting pressure on it hurts," Roethlisberger said of his latest injury. "With this, I can't get on my toes which is kind of important to running and throwing. I can't twist with it. Those kinds of things are the most painful.
"With that [broken foot], I could tape it up and not move it, I could function with it. This is a little tougher to deal with. I think, if I had the same injury in my right one, it would be worse because that's the one you stop on and stuff like that. But, in terms of throwing and planting and rotating on that one, yes it's difficult."
Roethlisberger is not expected to practice again today.
"The lack of mobility with a high ankle sprain is a little more than what he's had to deal with in the past," Arians said. "We have to be careful with it. He'll let us know."
Chris Hoke had surgery on his neck Wednesday and spent some time Thursday visiting the Steelers locker room.
Of course, he can not play, but Casey Hampton wants him next to him at their remaining games.
Hoke watches a ton of video on opponents. Hampton admits to watching very little.
"I don't really watch film," Hampton said. "I'm not a big film guy. Hey, man, you just got to whup the guy in front of you; doesn't matter what else you do, know what I mean?"
As for Hoke watching all that video, Hampton said, "That's how Hokey's wired. That's his thing to get himself going. Hokey's like a coach on the field. He's got to come to the game, he's got to, or I'll be lost."
Still not practicing, besides Roethlisberger, were safety Troy Polamalu, center Maurkice Pouncey, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and linebacker Chris Carter. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert also did not practice because he was ill, but he should be fine.
Arians confirmed that if Pouncey cannot play, Trai Essex would start at left guard for Doug Legursky, who would move to center.
Still no ruling from the NFL on linebacker James Harrison's appeal of his one-game suspension. A spokesman said the ruling would come this week.
First Published December 16, 2011 12:00 am