The Pittsburgh Steelers probably will be without prized rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when they close the regular season on Sunday in Buffalo.
Roethlisberger suffered bruised rib cartilage during Sunday's triumph over the Baltimore Ravens and likely will sit out this weekend, but should be ready to play when the Steelers open the playoffs by hosting an AFC semifinal Jan. 15 or 16 at Heinz Field, probably against the San Diego Chargers. That game will come three weeks after Roethlisberger was injured.
Ben Roethlisberger is helped off the field after being blindsided by the Ravens' Terrell Suggs, who was penalized. The Steelers' quarterback suffered bruised rib cartilage.
(Tom E. Puskar -- AP)
Coach Bill Cowher said yesterday that Roethlisberger will try to throw this week, and he did not rule out Roethlisberger playing Sunday. Cowher said he will try to be smart about injuries this week but won't bench any starters who aren't hurt and will do his best to win in Buffalo. Still, Roethlisberger's absence could bolster the Bills' playoff chances as they try to secure an AFC wild-card spot.
"We will see where he is at the end of the week," Cowher said during a news conference. "Certainly we are looking at the playoffs, and we will certainly keep that in mind as it relates to the health of our players. But we are not going to approach this game any differently than we have approached the last 15 games. . . . If you think you can turn it on and off, then you are going to be mistaken, and down the road it is going to be very disappointing."
The Steelers' victory over the Ravens secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. That is significant because they have never won a road playoff game in Cowher's 13 seasons.
If Roethlisberger's regular season is over, he would finish with 196 completions on 295 throws for 2,621 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His passer rating of 98.1 ranks sixth in the NFL. He was passed over in the Pro Bowl selections but should be a landslide choice as the league's rookie of the year.
Veteran Tommy Maddox likely will make his first start since injuring his elbow in a Week 2 loss at Baltimore and giving way to Roethlisberger, who has won his first 13 NFL starts and stretched his winning streak going back to college to 26 consecutive starts. Maddox took over Sunday against the Ravens after Roethlisberger was forced to the sideline by the effects of a hit by linebacker Terrell Suggs that drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer after a touchdown throw to tight end Jerame Tuman.
Reid's Choices May Require Answers
Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid has left himself open to criticism if his offense sputters during the playoffs and his club falls short of the Super Bowl again. Reid's offense must make major adjustments after losing wide receiver Terrell Owens until at least February because of an ankle injury that required surgery last week. The Eagles relied heavily on Owens all season, and now must learn to play without him.
But Reid left his team with only one potential dress rehearsal before the playoffs -- Sunday's regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lincoln Financial Field -- because he took a cautious approach during Monday night's defeat at St. Louis, not wanting to risk another injury. Tailback Brian Westbrook was on the inactive list, and quarterback Donovan McNabb was yanked after one offensive series.
The Eagles drove 63 yards for a touchdown on McNabb's one series, but managed only 92 yards on offense the rest of the night in the 20-7 loss. Philadelphia already had wrapped up the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Reid also might have to answer to some unhappy coaches the next time he crosses paths with them. A victory by the Eagles on Monday would have clinched the NFC West title for Seattle and a wild-card spot for Minnesota, and would have ensured that the winner of Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers would have gotten the NFC's other wild-card berth. . . .
The Eagles officially are retiring No. 92 in tribute to Reggie White, who died this past Sunday. They already had unofficially retired the number. The team plans to honor White in a ceremony Sunday, and will petition the league to wear helmet decals in White's memory. . . .
Atlanta Falcons Coach Jim Mora Jr. indicated that he plans to play quarterback Michael Vick this weekend against the Seahawks. Vick sat out Sunday's loss to the Saints because of a sprained throwing shoulder. . . .
Dallas safety Darren Woodson probably will announce his retirement in the coming days. He missed the entire season after undergoing back surgery, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during a radio show that Woodson's 13-year NFL career is over. Woodson, 35, has played his entire career with the Cowboys and has been selected to five Pro Bowls. He is the last player still on the club's roster from its three Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1990s. . . .