Game Day Notebook

Ben Roethlisberger the MVP candidate and the silver lining behind James Harrison's time off.

PITTSBURGH – A Halloween weekend visit from the New England Patriots in 2004 was followed by a visit from the big, bad Philadelphia Eagles.

The Steelers whipped both teams and entered the home stretch as a major contender with the eventual Rookie of the Year at quarterback. The Steelers are set for another similar stretch run, only the Baltimore Ravens are visiting on the first Sunday in November instead of the Eagles, and the trophy awaiting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be for Most Valuable Player.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was asked about Roethlisberger's MVP chances this week.

"I think that always comes with your team winning," Arians said. "If your team's winning and your numbers are big enough those things have a chance. It's not something we dream about or talk about. That's just an accolade that comes with a team winning."

Roethlisberger should be in consideration for any AFC Player of the Year award. He's fourth in a close race in AFC passer rating behind Tom Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Schaub. Other AFC contenders would include leading rusher Maurice Jones-Drew and leading receiver Wes Welker.

Aaron Rodgers of the undefeated Green Bay Packers is the NFC and NFL favorite.

HARRISON('S) BACK

James Harrison is listed as probable for the game tonight after practicing all week.

The blind-side pass-rusher missed four games with a broken right orbital bone, giving him more time to recover from surgery to remove part of a herniated disk in his low back last May.

"It helped my back to heal up a little more," Harrison said. "I'm seven, seven and a half months out from surgery now."

Harrison had previously pegged the normal recovery time at 12 to 18 months, and also said that his fierce workouts had to be lightened considerably. But lately everything's coming together for him.

"I actually couldn't lift for a week or so (after eye surgery). I couldn't do nothing," he said. "I couldn't even put my head below my waist. Lately I've been able to lift some."

And his football conditioning?

"It's not what it was when I left, but it's better than what it was at the very beginning (of the season)," he said.

WORLD WITHOUT WOODLEY

With LaMarr Woodley out with a hamstring injury, second-year man Jason Worilds will make his first start tonight.

Last year's second-round draft pick missed the last four games with an injured quadriceps. Worilds admitted he's "not 100 percent. … It's like a hamstring, always nagging," so rookie fifth-round pick Chris Carter is ready on standby to spell either outside linebacker. Carter replaced Woodley last week in the second half when the Patriots had to throw to get back into the game. They missed an opportunity to test the 243-pound Carter in the run game, but Carter assumes the Ravens will give it a try.

"We're thinking that as a team, so it wouldn't be a surprise if that were the case," said Carter, an up-the-field pass-rusher who had 19½ career sacks as a defensive end at Fresno State.

"We knew he was a speed rusher. We could see that from his college tape and he's demonstrated that," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "And I think he's going to just continue to improve because he works so hard. He's got some improvement to do. He's a young player but we're very happy with the way he approaches his job. I think he's very professional. His character is very strong. We're happy with him."


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