Pittsburgh Steelers

Stadium: Heinz Field | Coach: Mike Tomlin
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense16th68.5 (29th)244.0 (11th)
Defense3rd74.0 (8th)163.0 (5th)

Steelers report: Inside slant

The Sports Xchange
Inside slant · Strategy and personnel · Notes, quotes

Both Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward have said they want to put their tiff behind them, but the Steelers' quarterback admitted Thursday that Ward's criticism of his absence last Sunday "hurt" him.

"He reached out to me and I told him I was just more hurt than anything," Roethlisberger said. "You know, we got over it, moved past it and now we're preparing."

Ward has spent much of this week both explaining his comments and apologizing for them. "In hindsight looking at it, we're never going to jeopardize a man's health issues to play a game," Ward said.

Ward had long talks with coach Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger on Monday, issued statements Tuesday on his Facebook page, apologized to the entire team Wednesday and then gave long interviews in the locker room to explain his situation.

The words that stung Roethlisberger came in a NBC-TV interview over the weekend when Ward learned Roethlisberger would not play after practicing all week. The quarterback developed headaches after he left the Nov. 22 game in Kansas City with a concussion.

"I've been out there dinged up. The following week, got right back out there. Ben practiced all week," Ward said, among other things.

Roethlisberger brought up his near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2006 as one reason doctors balked at his playing this time.

"A lot of people forget the accident that I had. (The doctors) remembered that. It was life threatening, I almost lost my life for an accident to my head and face and the five plates I have in my face right now."

Roethlisberger did put in another full day of practice Thursday and vowed to play on Sunday against Oakland at home.

"I feel great. I'm ready to go, practiced yesterday, felt good, no headaches and ready to rock and roll."

The Steelers play 3-8 Oakland on Sunday as they try to snap a three-game losing streak and claw their way back into a playoff spot.

"The playoffs officially begin for us this week. You lose, we're pretty much out of it," Ward said. "We know what's at stake. Our playoff season begins this weekend. This team knows if we lose we're pretty much out of it."

At 6-5, the Steelers are in the thick of the running for a wild-card playoff spot and, realistically, they might be able to go 4-1 as long as one of their victories includes Baltimore on Dec. 27.

They have two soft touches coming up at home vs. the Raiders and then at Cleveland next Thursday. They then finish with games against three teams in the playoff hunt: Green Bay and Baltimore at home, and at Miami.

"We're kind of in a situation where we need to win this weekend," tight end Heath Miller said. "All of our efforts need to be pointed in that direction and we'll see where we're at after that game."

The three-game losing skid is the first in the three seasons under Tomlin. The AFC North Division has virtually been ceded to Cincinnati, which would have to go 2-3 while the Steelers go 5-0 for them to bungle the division title this time.

The Steelers find themselves in a similar position to the one that faced them in 2005, when they were 7-5 and had to win their remaining four games to make the playoffs. They did just that to secure the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot, then won four more in the postseason to become Super Bowl champs.

"That (team's) makeup was different but it's a similar situation to that," Ward said. "Hopefully, we can just concentrate, get back on the winning track, beat Oakland and move on from there."

18th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series 9-8. The teams are even in Pittsburgh at 4-4. The Steelers have played the Raiders more times in the playoffs than any other team except Denver, both at six. The Raiders and Steelers are 3-3 in those six postseason games. They last met in 2006 in Oakland, a game won by the Raiders 20-13. The Raiders last played in Pittsburgh in 2004, a game won by the Steelers 24-21.

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