Is Team Unity Threatened?

Hines Ward told Bob Costas before the game that he and many of his teammates expected Ben Roethlisberger to play, and that Ward would've played. The local reporter for the Sports Xchange guesses that it could cause a split in the locker room.

The Steelers not only lost a game in Baltimore on Sunday and likely any shot at repeating as AFC North division champs, they might have lost some team unity.

The Super Bowl champs are reeling from three straight losses and at 6-5 have fallen almost hopelessly out of the AFC North division race.

Wide receiver Hines Ward complained after he learned the day before that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would not play, even though he practiced all week. Doctors advised Roethlisberger not to play in Baltimore after he complained of headaches Friday. He left the previous game in Kansas City with what was described as concussion-like symptoms.

"This game is almost like a playoff game," Ward said. "It's almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like, 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before.'

"It's almost like a 50-50 tossup in the locker room. Should he play? Shouldn't he play? It's really hard to say.

"I've been out there dinged up. The following week, got right back out there. Ben practiced all week. He split time with Dennis Dixon. And then to find out that he's still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to the doctors didn't feel that they were going to clear him or not."

The Steelers dressed Roethlisberger as the No. 3 quarterback and coach Mike Tomlin said if his first two, Dixon and newly signed Tyler Palko, were hurt, he would have turned to his veteran to enter the game and do nothing but hand off.

Either way, they will go through a similar process this week as they did last week until Roethlisberger is cleared. It would be no surprise then if the Steelers had not signed a veteran quarterback early this week, just in case.

They did not do so last week because Roethlisberger convinced them he was fine right up to Friday. By then, it was too late. They had veterans Todd Bouman and Patrick Ramsey in to their facility last Thursday for physicals and for them to throw a little. It's possible one could be signed, at least until Charlie Batch is ready to go.

"I wanted to go out there and play," Roethlisberger said. "But the doctors told me it wasn't a good decision. Then, the coaches told me the same thing. So, I wasn't playing."

Batch was ruled out for 2-4 weeks with a broken left wrist. He had a plate inserted on Wednesday and word filtered out that he will not be ready until the back-end of that time. They could put Palko back on the practice squad, sign a veteran and protect themselves as they try to get a wild-card playoff berth over the next five games.

LINEUP WATCH: Travis Kirschke, who missed three games with a torn left calf muscle, returned to start at left defensive end. Nick Eason, who started those three games, was inactive because they want No. 1 pick Ziggy Hood to continue to play some snaps each game.

TRENDING: 12 -- Number of prime time games the Steelers won consecutively under coach Mike Tomlin until their loss in Baltimore Sunday night. Tomlin lost his first prime time game as a coach before going on that run.


* SS Troy Polamalu could miss the next two games with a sprained PCL that has kept him out of the past two. The Steelers play Sunday and then again Thursday.

* LB LaMarr Woodley, after a slow start, has four of his six sacks in the past three games. Woodley had 11.5 sacks last season.

* RB Willie Parker, who lost his starting job after an early-season toe injury, continues to take every third series at running back.

* QB Dennis Dixon likely earned a spot as the team's No. 2 man next season. He threw for one TD, ran for another and showed good poise against one of the NFL's best defenses.

* LB Lawrence Timmons had two sacks Sunday, giving him a career-high six sacks in his three NFL seasons.

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