Notebook: Ben's Wrist 'Nothing Crazy'

Roethlisberger refutes report of fracture and much more from a Steelers Wednesday on the South Side.

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger said his right wrist swelled "a little bit, nothing crazy" after smacking it off the arm of a New Orleans Saints linebacker late in the first quarter of Sunday's loss.

And Roethlisberger said he was "ready to rock and roll today," but was held out of Wednesday's practice by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

After practice, Roethlisberger threw with his receivers and both he and Tomlin refuted an Internet report that Roethlisberger had a fractured wrist.

"There's nothing wrong with it," Roethlisberger said in the locker room. "I wouldn't lie to you guys."

The Steelers QB is coming off one of his worst games of the season, but if form holds true he'll rebound Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Roethlisberger started poorly against the Saints and rallied to finish with a 76.4 passer rating, his third worst passer rating of the season. The Steelers lost all three of those games, but the last two times Roethlisberger bounced back strong. His 112.5 rating led the Steelers to a win at Carolina and his 113.8 rating led them to a win over Houston.

Can Roethlisberger bounce back similarly against the Bengals?

He is 9-2 there with three 100-plus passer ratings.

"Really good defense," Roethlisberger said of the Bengals. "Their secondary is playing as good as any secondary in the NFL right now. (There are) a lot of veterans out there. They have two young drafted guys that don’t even get to play because their veteran guys are playing so well."

The Bengals have allowed the fewest touchdown passes (11) in the league this season, have the second-best defensive passer rating (75.0), and are allowing the third-fewest yards per pass attempt (6.3).

If Roethlisberger is going to bounce back the way he did following his other sub-80.0 rated games this season, he'll need to beat a secondary with five cornerbacks -- Terence Newman, Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick -- who entered the league as first-round draft picks.

"Well," Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis said with a chuckle, "I always tell people that when I left the Steelers in 1996 I underestimated how good we were back in the back end with those picks like that. How good Rod (Woodson), Carnell (Lake) and the guys we had back there were all the time. When I became the coordinator in Baltimore, I didn't quite enjoy the luxury of that. I got my head beat in a little bit until we started drafting some guys in the first round. We drafted one in 1998 and 1999 in the first round and we got a lot better in a hurry. We've continued the same thing here."

STATE OF STEELERS SECONDARY

The Steelers haven't drafted a cornerback in the first round since 1997, and their stats are following suit.

While the Bengals are first, second and third, defensively, in touchdowns, passer rating, and yards per attempt, the Steelers rank 27th in each category.

Ike Taylor, the veteran cornerback, the great hope who returned following an eight-week layoff, allowed a 69-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Kenny Stills on Sunday.

"Coach (Dick) LeBeau says all the time that as a defensive back your eyes can be your best friend or your worst enemy," said Taylor. "I saw something. I saw it wrong. He turned up, Drew Brees stepped up in the pocket, they caught it, made the play, and they scored."

Taylor, of course, is being excoriated on social media as washed up at age 34. But he was actually encouraged by his performance.

"I feel like I knocked the rust off," he said. "I feel a whole lot better. My feet feel a whole lot better, as far as in and out of breaks. Sitting eight games, practicing for the past two months is no simulation on playing the game. I felt like as the game went on I got a little bit better. With me, it's just making sure my eyes are in the right place."

Taylor has a history of turning out winning performances in man-to-man coverage with Bengals ace receiver A.J. Green, who has missed almost four full games with a toe injury this season. But Green has played the last five games, and in the last three games has caught 22 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns.

Might Taylor shadow Green again?

"Coaching staff going to let me know during the week," Taylor said. "But we've got a hot guy like Will Gay. He's been hot on the corner, and I told my whole defensive staff, my coaches, 'Man, when he's hot let the dude work.' I felt I had a run like that back in my day, just a hot run regardless of what people wanted to say. Right now he's hot, so we're going to see what's up.

"I feel good now. I was glad to be back on the field, but now just being back isn't good enough. I've got to start making some plays."

INJURY REPORT

Taylor was expected to lead a group of injured players back onto the field following the bye, but some are still struggling to return a week later.

Taylor, in fact, winced in pain from his shoulder while putting on a shirt, but he at least practiced Wednesday. Roethlisberger, RT Marcus Gilbert (ankle), ROLB James Harrison (knee) and SS Troy Polamalu (illness) were sidelined. TE Heath Miller was given the day off.

"I had a knee sprain too, an MCL sprain," said Gilbert, "so I'm dealing with two injuries."

Gilbert hopes to get some practice reps Thursday and Friday and will see Saturday if he can return to the lineup.

Nose tackle Steve McLendon is more optimistic about a shoulder injury that's kept him out of four of the last six games.

"I'll be practicing tomorrow," McLendon said, but only if he passes a strength test. "The doctor comes in and tests the strength in my shoulder to see if I can hold a guy off me. That's the biggest thing."

TUITT TO DO IT

With defensive end Brett Keisel on injured reserve after undergoing surgery for a torn triceps, rookie Stephon Tuitt said he'll make his first start Sunday. The second-round pick from Notre Dame has played in all 12 games and made six tackles.

"I've been preparing all year, following Keisel, understanding the game and practicing the game the way a Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman is supposed to," Tuitt said. "I'm prepared. My confidence is high. I'm not going to slack off in any way." Tuitt said that Keisel has taught him "technique, the detail in the work, basically the way coach (John Mitchell) does things."

Keisel, the 36-year-old stalwart with a year left on his contract, said that he's waiting to see how he recovers before making a decision about his future.

NO FUTURE AT UAB

Chris Hubbard will be one of the last NFL players to come out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, which declared Tuesday it is shutting down its football program.

"It's pretty sad, man, to see the whole football program go down like that after a good season," said Hubbard. "They're bowl-eligible. I was pretty anxious to see them play in a bowl game."

The Blazers have played in only one bowl game since entering the 1-A ranks in 1996. This year, the team finished 6-6 and could've played in its first bowl team in 10 years. In addition to Hubbard, a reserve guard with the Steelers, the program has turned out Matt McCants, Bryan Thomas, Roddy White, and rookie running back Darrin Reaves.

"I'm not so much angry. It's not that. I'm hurt," Hubbard said. "I'm very hurt it had to happen like this. I have a lot of friends, teammates that still go there. It's hurtful for me to see it happen like that."


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