Just three weeks after suffering what was diagnosed as a potentially life-threatening rib injury, Ben Roethlisberger is going to return as the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mike Tomlin said following Thursday's practice that Roethlisberger, who missed two games against the Ravens and one against the Browns, looked good enough to go Sunday, and the team's only concern was Roethlisberger taking a hit.
"He has been above the line in all areas," Tomlin told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "Really, the only question we can't answer is taking a hit. Obviously that will be answered in the stadium on Sunday."
It's reasonable to wonder how Roethlisberger will look throwing the ball, but Tomlin said he was "extremely comfortable" with Roethlisberger getting the ball down the field and that his quarterback has "great velocity on the ball."
"I am extremely comfortable with his ability to work the field both vertically and horizontally," Tomlin said. "He has great velocity on his ball. We're ready to go."
In Roethlisberger's absence, the Steelers went 1-2 after Byron Leftwich squeaked out an overtime win over the Chiefs in the game where Roethlisberger suffered an ankle and rib injury.
Leftwich kept the Steelers close against the Ravens in Week 11 at home, but Pittsburgh couldn't pull out a victory. Then Charlie Batch threw three picks and the running backs fumbled eight times in a brutal 20-14 loss to Cleveland. Batch returned, in what might become the final start of his career, to lead Pittsburgh over the Ravens in a Week 13 stunner that kept the Steelers in position for a wild card.
Through all of it, though, one thing was clear: Pittsburgh's postseason hopes lie firmly with Roethlisberger's health. He was one of several MVP candidates around the league before his injury and the Steelers were rounding into a dangerous contender before he went down.
If he can stay healthy from here on out, they'll be a very scary team to face once the postseason rolls around. If not, well, 2012 might become a lost season very quickly.
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