Notebook: Ben Officially Starting

Tomlin makes it official: Roethlisberger to start Sunday. Also, notes on Heath Miller, Plaxico Burress and Willie Colon.

PITTSBURGH – After taking the bulk of the snaps with the first team on Thursday, Ben Roethlisberger was officially named the Steelers' starting quarterback for Sunday's game against San Diego, according to the team's website.

Roethlisberger's throwing strength may not be all the way back, but according to his so-called "barometer," Heath Miller, Roethlisberger is making great progress.

"I have been around him the longest and he knows I will give him an honest answer," Miller told Steelers.com. "It's better than last week, as you would expect. Over time he will only get better and better."

Reporters aren't allowed to discuss the specifics of practice, but readers should pay attention to what is not being said.

Regardless of whether Roethlisberger has all of his arm strength back, he brings enough to a Steelers team that's hoping it's in the homestretch run for a playoff berth.

"He opens up everything in our playbook," said receiver Mike Wallace. "I feel like Charlie [Batch] can run everything in the playbook, but when Ben's in it's just a whole different level of game planning and things that teams have to do just to compensate for how athletic he is. I think he brings a dimension to the team that nobody else can bring."

SPEAKING OF HEATH

Miller needs just 7 receptions to become the third Steeler to catch 400 passes.

Hines Ward has 1,000 catches and John Stallworth has 537.

Miller laughed when asked what that 400th catch will mean to him.

"Not a lot right now, to be honest," he said. "You know I don't really focus on that. Maybe when I'm done playing and I can look back and focus on those types of things, but right now it doesn't mean a whole lot."

Knowing Miller, it won't mean a lot 20 years from now either.

BEN TO BURRESS

Plaxico Burress admitted he's struggled through his first practices in almost eight years with Ben Roethlisberger. Burress has received plenty of work because several receivers have been resting injuries.

"That's what practice is for, for us to go out and get those things ironed out before Sunday," said Burress. "We will. It's good for those things to happen in practice and not in the game."

Burress was asked what's different about Roethlisberger since the two last played together in 2004.

"Just patience," Burress said. "I think he understands the game. He knows it. He can get under center and recognize fronts and coverages. He has a keen sense to see what the defense is rolling to before the snap."

Is Roethlisberger determined to rekindle the pair's former magic?

"We're not going to force it," Burress said. "We're going to take what comes to us, and those opportunities will present themselves on Sunday based on the coverages and how those guys want to play us and the guys we have on the field. As far as us from a playmaking standpoint, we're just going to go out and do the things we can do. He's going to make the right reads and hopefully I can go out and make the plays for him."

INJURY REPORT

Left guard Willie Colon returned to practice Thursday and said afterward that unless he wakes up in pain on Friday he'll play Sunday. That would move Maurkice Pouncey back to center and Doug Legursky back to the sidelines.

Also returning to practice Thursday were wide receivers Wallace and Antonio Brown. Emmanuel Sanders was limited after missing Wednesday's workout.

Punter Drew Butler missed Thursday's practice with an illness, and safeties Ryan Clark (hip) and Troy Polamalu (not injury related) also missed, along with linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) and quarterback Byron Leftwich (ribs).

Cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle) and right tackle Mike Adams (ankle) have already been ruled out of Sunday's game.


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