Bye Week Update II

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, did not practice with his teammates during their bye week. However, all's well in Pittsburgh ...

... Big Ben has had a sore right shoulder -- technically a slight separation -- since Houston defensive end Mario Williams sacked him and he landed on it in the opener. He has not missed a game because of it, but he has missed a number of practices. Roethlisberger did not practice last Wednesday or Thursday, then came out and threw the ball a season-high 41 times for 309 yards and three touchdowns to beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville, 26-21.

The shoulder took another hit as he completed a crucial 18-yard pass to Hines Ward on third down from Jacksonville's 31 with two defenders hanging on him. That led to his eight-yard touchdown pass to Ward with 1:53 left for the game-winner.

"For a guy not to practice and go out there and put up over 300 yards passing, I can't describe how a guy can do that," Ward said.

Roethlisberger has had injuries to his knee and hand as well as his shoulder this year. He's been sacked 18 times and hit many more, but he hasn't missed a start and was replaced other than for mop-up duty only in the final minutes of their loss to Baltimore when he ran inside to have his right hand X-rayed.

It's a nice time for a bye for Big Ben and his teammates.

"I don't have anything too serious, bumps and bruises and stuff like that. For me it's getting those bruises worked out and feeling good next week," Roethlisberger said.

When the Steelers resume play Oct. 19 in Cincinnati, they expect many of their injured to return, including defensive end Brett Keisel (out three games, calf), halfback Willie Parker (missed 1 1/2 games, knee), nose tackle Casey Hampton (out two games, groin), fullback Cary Davis (out 1 1/2 games, ankle), left tackle Marvel Smith (left game in Jacksonville, cramps) and kicker Jeff Reed, who strained his calf in Jacksonville.

The Steelers are 4-1, their three victories after a runaway win vs. Houston by five points or fewer.

"It's a good way to go into the break," Roethlisberger said. "It's coming at the right time. It's a time for people who have bumps and bruises to really get healed up. I think we'll come back next week and feel really good about ourselves and where we are at."

Sacked 47 times last season, Roethlisberger is on pace for almost 58 this season, which would set a Steelers record. His teammates, though, say they don't worry about his safety.

"Not at all," receiver Santonio Holmes said. "He's a big, physical guy. He takes care of himself. Coach gives him the right amount of time to take off."

Roethlisberger will have had more than a week off from the football field by the time the Steelers return to practice next Wednesday -- if he practices that day.

"I know that he will be healthy enough to play winning football," Mike Tomlin said of his quarterback. "I think he is there right now even though he is not comfortable all of the time from a standpoint of preparation, at least from where I see it. But yes, he is going to be closer to 100 percent healthy. We will see where he is at the end of this thing."

NOTES, QUOTES

--OT Max Starks, making nearly $7 million this season as a transition player, has been the No. 3 tackle. Yet when Marvel Smith left in the fourth quarter Sunday in Jacksonville with cramps, Trai Essex was sent in to replace him, not Starks.

"No, I wasn't disappointed," Starks said. "I knew both of us could play both positions. I know our strong suits -- Trai's naturally a left tackle and was a natural fit rather than what's been happening."

--It appears second-year pro Darnell Stapleton will remain at right guard when the Steelers next play. He made his first start there Sunday in place of Kendall Simmons, who was placed on injured reserve.

"He had an opportunity and he delivered, which is encouraging. We will continue to move forward in that regard," coach Mike Tomlin said.

--LB James Harrison was fined $20,000 by the league for his comments after his roughing-the-passer penalty against Jacksonville's David Garrard in the fourth quarter.

"When it comes down to it, these refs should start getting fined for making bad calls," Harrison said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- Sacks the Steelers have allowed after five games, half of their total of 36 from last season and on pace for nearly 58, which would break their team record.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are not trying to tell a story or over-evaluate at this point; we like to live in a tunnel and keep it black-and-white." -- Coach Mike Tomlin, asked to explain what being 4-1 meant to him entering the bye week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Steelers made no moves during their bye week. They did make one on Saturday before their game in Jacksonville when they released LB Patrick Bailey and signed NT Scott Paxson from their practice squad.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Ben Roethlisberger's game in Jacksonville was only the fifth time he's thrown for 300 yards in a regular-season game and his first in two seasons.

--LB James Harrison leads the AFC with 6.5 sacks, second in the NFL. He's two from tying his personal high from last season, when he made the Pro Bowl.

--K Jeff Reed, perfect on nine field-goal tries, needs three more to pass Roy Gerela as the team's second-most prolific field-goal kicker. He has 144.

--RB Willie Parker has the team's only three touchdowns rushing and they all came in the opening game.

--WR Hines Ward's 90 yards receiving in Jacksonville pushed him over 9,000 yards, the only receiver in Steelers history to hit that mark. He has 9,053.

INJURY IMPACT:

--All but a minor one or two of the Steelers not on injured reserve should be ready to play Oct. 19 in Cincinnati. That means the return of starters RB Willie Parker (knee), FB Carey Davis (ankle), NT Casey Hampton (groin) and DE Brett Keisel (calf), as well as K Jeff Reed (calf) and DE Nick Eason (ankle). WR Dallas Baker (shoulder) may not be ready.


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