Notebook: Ben set for Sunday

Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice and appears ready for action Sunday. Bill Cowher will also decide Sunday whether the Steelers will have new starters at cornerback and guard. Also, Joey Porter was upgraded and Dan Rooney talks about a couple of hot issues.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger practiced Thursday but afterward he couldn't say how he felt.

"You have to ask Coach Cowher," Roethlisberger said. "He knows how I felt."

How about it, coach?

"He took all the reps and he felt better than he did yesterday," said Bill Cowher. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow but to be quite honest with you the final decision probably won't be made until Sunday morning."

Roethlisberger, of course, is coming off a slight concussion suffered Sunday in Atlanta. Thursday was his first practice of the week. He's listed as questionable for Sunday's game in Oakland.

"We'll have to see how he feels," Cowher said. "Obviously he's going across the country on a trip and we'll see once we get out there, but I'm very encouraged by how he feels today."


Kendall Simmons was assigned to block Chauncey Davis, who knocked Roethlisberger out of the game. Two plays later Simmons allowed Justin Babineaux to come free and cause Willie Parker's fumble. Simmons was yanked from the game in favor of Chris Kemoeatu, who might hold onto the job.

Bryant McFadden is also forcing Cowher to make a decision at left cornerback, where McFadden has started the last two games in place of slightly injured Deshea Townsend.

"Both of those guys are getting an equal amount of work at both of those positions. We'll make a decision come Sunday," Cowher said.

Cowher was asked if the moves would be considered promotions or demotions. He gave a predictable answer.

"I wouldn't say it should be looked upon as someone's poor play as it is the opportunity that Bryant had while Deshea's been out," Cowher said. "It's really the same thing Chris created when Kendall got hurt. Both of those guys played very well in those time frames."


Joey Porter practiced for a second consecutive day and was upgraded to probable with his hamstring injury. Porter missed the last two games with the injury. His backup, James Harrison, is also injured, as is the starting linebacker on the other side, Clark Haggans.

Because of the injuries, Porter's return to health provided a needed boost.

"He's looked very well," Cowher said. "He hasn't missed anything the last two days, so barring any setbacks he should be fine."

Harrison is out with his sprained ankle, but has been off crutches for a week. Haggans (ankle) and nose tackle Casey Hampton (hamstring) both missed their second practices this week and are questionable. Hampton told reporters he's going to play, but Cowher isn't so sure.

"I think that's just his optimism and his desire to get out there," Cowher said. "I have not upgraded him. He has not practiced. Again, it may come down to being a game-day decision."

If Haggans is unable to play, the tandem of Chad Brown and Arnold Harrison would move from the right side to the left. Harrison played the position at training camp.


Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney expects to be fined for his statements after Sunday's game. "It's automatic," he said. "I knew that at the time."

After the loss to the Falcons, Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "these officials should be ashamed of themselves. That last call, you don't call that kind of call."

But game film showed that Nate Washington did indeed move prior to the snap, and that quarterback Charlie Batch did not pause long enough for the officials to have considered Washington re-set. So, does Rooney take back his criticisms?

"Do you want me to double it?" he responded, thus answering the question.

On another front, NFL owners this week approved a resolution to stage up to two international regular-season games every year beginning next year.

Each team would travel abroad two times every 16 years and would be considered the home team once every 16 years. Rooney said the Steelers would be reimbursed by the league for a lost home game.

"I think it's something we have to do," he said. "You have to keep up with global expansion. The other sports leagues are doing it. I think it's important."

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