Ben Hopes to Play Through Injury

After getting roughed up again on the road, the Steelers welcome a return to Heinz Field for the next two games as their tour through the AFC South continues.

The Steelers play Tennessee and Jacksonville at home the next two Sundays to wind up four straight games against division rivals. They just don't know if their starting quarterback will be able to join them.

Ben Roethlisberger has a left foot injury that could possibly keep him out of Sunday's game against the Titans. It was not immediately known if there was a break, but he played through a tearing of scar tissue from an old break last year. He wore a special shoe that contained a metal plate to protect the foot, and Roethlisberger said he's prepared to do it again if necessary on his other foot.

"You know me, if I can be out there, I'm going to be out there," he said. "That's so for next week, too. I casted up my foot for the last half of (last) year, so if we have to do it, I'll do it."

Roethlisberger has been under siege playing behind a makeshift line that included two new starters Sunday in Houston because of injuries. He was sacked five times, roughed up many more and chased out of the pocket continuously.

The quarterback refuses to blame his line, but it's obvious what is holding back the Steelers' offense this season.

"I feel like we're close," Roethlisberger said. "I guess if there's a time to just not be quite right, it's now. It's the first month of the season."

But there is little sign the Steelers are getting it together or getting better on either side of the ball. Their 17-10 loss in Houston on Sunday could have been worse but the Texans couldn't stop committing penalties and had two touchdowns called back.

The Steelers lost the opener 35-7 in Baltimore. And they had to mount a late comeback to beat a Peyton Manning-less Colts team in Indianapolis. They beat Seattle 24-0 at home, but even in that game, they had trouble running the ball when they had to.

The defense hasn't been the same this year, too. Last season, the Steelers allowed just 62.8 yards rushing per game, third stingiest in the NFL since the 1970 merger. In four games this season, they've allowed an average of 119.5 yards.

"We played like garbage. Period," linebacker James Harrison said after Sunday's loss. "We stink."

The Steelers will be favored to win the next two games to get to 4-2 as they head back on the road.

"I'm not trying to look for a silver lining in any of it," Harrison said.


UNDER THE RADAR: Antonio Brown, a sixth-round draft pick in 2010, was supposed to be the Steelers' No. 4 wide receiver entering this season. He has climbed past Emmanuel Sanders into the No. 3 job, and, productively, he is No. 2 with 15 catches for 223 yards. Brown trails only Mike Wallace in both categories. Still, his mis-read of a "hot" during a blitz situation was all the more dumbfounding when the defender close to Brown jumped across the line and "revealed himself" as a blitzer. Brown still ran a deep route as Roethlisberger's pass bounced incomplete behind him.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Running backs who gained 100 yards against the Steelers in the past 50 games entering this season. Houston's Arian Foster, with 155 yards Sunday, made it two in the Steelers' first four games this year.



* WR Mike Wallace failed to tie an NFL record when he caught four passes for just 77 yards in Houston, snapping his streak of six consecutive 100-yard regular-season games. He was shut out in the second half.

RB Rashard Mendenhall continues to have problems trying to gain a foothold. He has just 173 yards rushing and a 3.0-yard average per carry, and a hamstring injury put him on the bench in the fourth quarter at Houston. The Steelers' running game took off without him. Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries.

* DE Aaron Smith, whose past two seasons were cut short by injuries, suffered a left foot injury in Sunday's game. He has been off to a slow start after he returned to play this season for the first time since last October.

* P Daniel Sepulveda continues to bomb his kicks 10 months after his 2010 season ended with an ACL injury. He has averaged 50.0 yards on 14 punts this season.

* WR Hines Ward, who caught one pass for 19 yards, moved into 19th spot in NFL history with 11,838 yards. He moved passed Don Maynard, who had 11,834 yards.

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