Ben Roethlisberger will return to the field this weekend as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger has missed three weeks of action after suffering a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib, which is reported to have pressed against the aorta, in a Monday night game against Kansas City on Nov. 12.
The Steelers fielded backup Byron Leftwich in a Nov. 18 home clash with Baltimore but Leftwich injured his own shoulder in the 13-10 loss.
Leftwich was replaced by long-time backup Charlie Batch on Nov. 25 as the Steelers made the trip to Cleveland. Eight Steeler turnovers, including three Batch interceptions, led to a 24-14 Browns victory.
Batch, and the Steelers as a team, fared better last weekend, pulling off a surprise 23-20 victory in Baltimore on a last-second Shaun Suisham field goal. The victory marked the first time the Steelers had defeated the Ravens without Ben Roethlisberger since the quarterback was drafted in 2004.
Having missed both games against Baltimore – games that are always important to both sides – Roethlisberger will look to return to form immediately as he attempts to lead the Steelers to at least a Wild Card berth in this season’s playoffs.
His first call of action will be to defeat the self-destructing Chargers.
San Diego (4-8, 2-4 road) was predicted to contend this year, at least within its own division, if not for the Vince Lombardi trophy. A 2-1 start looked promising but it’s been all downhill from there.
The Chargers have lost four straight and seven of the last eight. With only four wins on the season, San Diego has seen Denver walk away with the AFC West title whilst its own hopes have passed into a quagmire of incompetence. Norv Turner’s side now needs to be careful that it doesn’t fall behind Oakland and Kansas City, fellow bottom-feeders in the worst division in football.
Pittsburgh (7-5, 4-1 home) meanwhile finds itself tied with Cincinnati two games behind Baltimore in the AFC North. Pittsburgh currently holds the tiebreaker over the Bengals by way of a 24-17 head-to-head win in Week 7.
Both teams have a chance of catching the Ravens, but in all likelihood they’ll be competing for a Wild Card nod. There’s a possibility that the two sides could take both Wild Card spots, as they did last season.
Whilst looking at the past can be a dangerous endeavor in the NFL, Pittsburgh is sure to be confident going into Sunday’s game. The Chargers – who have been owned by the Steelers over the last 41 years – have a squeamish 2-15 record when traveling to Pittsburgh. What’s more, it’s been 17 years since the Chargers recorded a win in the Steel City.
Pittsburgh’s stoic defense – which has given up just 19.2 points per game and ranks in the top five both against the run and against the pass – will look to shut down one of the league’s more suspect offenses. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger will face a Chargers pass defense ranked 21st in the league and giving up 240.6 yards per game.
News of Roethlisberger’s return has filtered through to Vegas. Oddmakers – having kept the game off the board earlier in the week – now have the Steelers as seven-point favorites heading into the game. The total is 43.
As well as Roethlisberger returning, Steelers left guard Willie Colon may also be back on the field come Sunday. The seven-year veteran has missed two weeks with a bruised left knee. He is reported as probable for Sunday afternoon’s clash with San Diego, and will be a game time decision.