After guiding the Steelers to a pair of Super Bowl wins and absorbing 221 sacks over six seasons, you'd think Ben Roethlisberger(notes) would have earned a little credibility with his teammates – particularly among pass-catching teammates. But apparently not.
"This game is almost like a playoff game. 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,'" Ward told Costas in an interview taped Saturday at the team's suburban-Baltimore hotel as a prelude to the Steelers-Ravens game.
"It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up 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(notes). 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 – it's hard to say. Unless you're the person [himself]. … I've lied to a couple of doctors saying I'm straight, I feel good when I know that I'm not really straight."
Roethlisberger practiced with the Steelers throughout the week, but he was still dealing with exercise-induced headaches. The team's neurosurgeon recommended that he not play; Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh's coaching staff complied. That seems perfectly reasonable, considering the mounting evidence that suggests repeated concussions lead to severe, life-shortening neurological disorders.
But for Ward, it's really hard to say. He would maybe just lie. It was almost like a must-win. (Even though it wasn't, not at all. The Steelers are a six-win team, they have five games remaining and their next two opponents are Oakland and Cleveland).
We should note that Dixon was plenty impressive facing one of the league's better defenses. He threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score. He's clearly a weapon; the Steelers can win with him. He wasn't perfect on Sunday – his completion percentage was below 50 and he threw a game-deciding interception in overtime (video) – but he was hardly a disaster. Ward should perhaps rethink his position on both Ben and Dixon. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
• Fred Jackson(notes), not Marshawn Lynch(notes), was Buffalo's primary running back on Sunday, and he finished with 116 total yards and two scores. He's also available in 33 percent of Yahoo! public leagues. Here's interim Bills head coach Perry Fewell discussing Jackson: "I made that decision [to start him] really during the course of the week, just watching us practice, watching our tempo and just gut instinct," Fewell said. "Fred has been very productive for us and it was just a gut, again, to help our football team." [Buffalo News]
You never know in the NFL, but at this point it's tough to make a case for Jones. Forsett rushed for 130 yards and two TDs on 22 carries against the Rams in Week 12. Jones hasn't scored twice in an NFL game since 2005.
Check the praise for Forsett from his O-line:
"He’s so quick," said tackle Sean Locklear(notes). "His stop and go is probably one of the best in the league. He’ll get in the hole, stop and freeze you, and then he’ll be back up to speed in two or three steps. A lot of the time, everything can be blocked right, but there’s still somebody unblocked. He can make that guy miss; he sometimes makes two or three of them miss."
Forsett has 40 fewer carries than Julius, but he trails him by only seven rushing yards. Seattle faces a pair of user-friendly run defenses in Weeks 14 and 15 (HOU, TB), yet Forsett is only 55 percent-owned. [Tacoma News Tribune]
• OK, this isn't really the sort of thing we need to link because you'll probably read it anyway. But still, we fully endorse this week's Morning Rush. Brian Urlacher's(notes) spin on various players was rather entertaining. Here's a taste:
Just before the Colts’ Peyton Manning(notes) threw a fade to Reggie Wayne(notes) for Indy’s first touchdown against the Houston Texans, sparking a comeback victory, Urlacher exclaimed, "Don’t blitz him, dumbass."
There's lots of hand-wringing in Chicago over the fact that Urlacher dared to call Kyle Orton(notes) "a winner," but he was also fairly positive about Jay Cutler(notes). It's a non-controversy. Just enjoy the column. [Michael Silver]
• More brutal news here for the Cleveland defense: "Shaun Rogers, the Browns' best defensive player, will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury, a league source said. The exact nature of the injury is unknown, but it could be an ankle or an Achilles. The Browns' nose tackle hobbled through the locker room Sunday on crutches, with his lower left leg wrapped and his face looking distraught." Cleveland finishes the season against San Diego, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
• The Colts have made it semi-official: They intend to rest key players in the closing week(s), whether they're undefeated or not. This from Sports Illustrated's Peter King:
I asked Caldwell if the Colts would handle the last two or three games of the year differently than they did under Dungy. You're familiar with the national debate about going for the undefeated season. The Patriots went for it in 2007 and got to 16-0, only to lose in the Super Bowl. The Colts have thumbed their noses at it, preferring to be in the best possible physical condition entering the playoffs. … "It'll be somewhat similar to what we've done," [Caldwell] said. "Going undefeated was always a secondary goal. I don't think we'll put too much emphasis on that."
Again, it's time to add Donald Brown(notes) if possible. (Or Chad Simpson(notes), Jim Sorgi(notes), Tom Santi(notes), et al). The Colts close the season with Jacksonville, then the Kris Jenkins(notes)-less Jets, then Buffalo. [Peter King]
• As always, we conclude Monday's 7-on-7 with the Rams Report Card, because it makes me feel much better about my undergraduate career. That's a tough "B" to pin on an injured Steven Jackson, after a 116-total yard performance. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Photos via US Presswire