Ben OK, questionable for Sunday

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Ben Roethlisberger's ribs are only bruised and Steelers Coach Bill Cowher listed him as questionable for Sunday's meaningless game at Buffalo.

Meaningless, that is, for the Steelers, who've clinched the conference's top seed. The game isn't meaningless to Cowher, who's hoping to sustain momentum.

"The last thing you can do when you go into any football game is to diminish the importance of it," Cowher said. "Certainly you're going to keep the big picture in mind, but we're going to prepare this week as we always have, to go up there and win this football game."

The Steelers are riding a franchise-record 13-game win streak, while the Bills are riding a six-game win streak that has put them in position to earn a playoff berth after an 0-4 start. The Bills need to beat the Steelers and have either the New York Jets or Denver Broncos lose in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Cowher said his plans for the game would not change even if another playoff berth were not dependent on the outcome.

"This is not about what we owe anybody. It's what we owe ourselves. This is how you play the game," he said. "We've got to play the game the way we know how to play the game. Those aren't things you can turn on and off, and if you think you can turn it on and off you're going to be mistaken and be led down a road that's going to be very disappointing. We need to play this game the way we've always played it and allow me to keep the big picture in mind as it relates to the players. They don't have to worry about that. They just go out there and play."

Roethlisberger was injured last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens when he was driven into the Heinz Field turf by Terrell Suggs during a third-quarter touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman. The Ravens were penalized 15 yards for roughing the quarterback and Roethlisberger returned for three plays on the next series before leaving the field in pain.

He was taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution and an MRI revealed he'd suffered bruised cartilage in his ribs. Although Roethlisberger's listed as questionable, Cowher said adding a quarterback to the roster is "a distinct possibility."

Cornerback Deshea Townsend has been ruled out of the Buffalo game with broken bones in his hand. Cowher said Townsend should be questionable for the first playoff game, with a lean toward the "high side of questionable" or close to probable.

Sunday, Townsend will be replaced at right cornerback by Chad Scott, who'd been the starting left cornerback before injuring a quadriceps muscle Oct. 17 against the Dallas Cowboys. Willie Williams has played well enough to remain at left cornerback.

"I talked to him last week about it," Cowher said. "(Scott) was getting ready to get some nickel work and dime work and, by moving Deshea inside, to be ready to go out there on the right side. So obviously the plan changed a little bit."

The Steelers are 9-0 this season without either of last year's starting cornerbacks - Scott and Dewayne Washington - in the lineup.

Listed as doubtful for Sunday's game are Jerome Bettis, with a sprained ankle, and left outside linebacker Clark Haggans, who could miss his third consecutive game with a groin injury.

Running back Duce Staley (hamstring) and inside linebacker Kendrell Bell (groin) are questionable.

Cowher hopes Staley can start at running back and allow Bettis to rest, even though Bettis is only 59 yards shy of what would be his ninth 1,000-yard season.

"I'm not looking at records or looking to appease any of that," Cowher said. "We've got to do what's in the best interests of this football team as we prepare our quest for what everybody wants, and that's a championship. I don't think you can deviate from that just to serve the individual purposes of players."

Injuries are another matter, but not entirely, according to Cowher.

"Certainly, if guys are hurt you don't want to risk setting them back," he said. "We need to have them in two weeks. But we're going to have a bye, and so we'll sit down and look at the health situation again with each guy as it relates to where they are at the end of the week, and then make decisions accordingly as we approach this game."


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