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Roethlisberger doesn't think his season is over

The SportsXchange

This will be the fifth time the Steelers play Baltimore without Ben Roethlisberger since he was Pittsburgh's first-round draft choice in 2004, and it appears he may not play against the Ravens for the rematch Dec. 2 in Baltimore.

Roethlisberger has a sprained right shoulder and a serious rib injury that threatens his aorta. He has been told he cannot play until the rib heals, otherwise there's a risk it could puncture his aorta.

"That's the more scary part because I guess if it goes in the wrong direction it could puncture the aorta," Roethlisberger said Wednesday, his right arm in a sling.

He said he has no idea when he will be able to return but does not think his season is over.

"I don't think so, I don't know though. I'm not a medical expert. I'm just going to do what I can to get back as fast as I can."

In the meantime, his old job belongs to Byron Leftwich, who will make his 50th start and his first since he started the first three games of the 2009 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sunday night, when he replaced Roethlisberger early in the third quarter, was the first time he's been in a game at all since the last game of the 2010 season, when he mopped up for the Steelers against the Cleveland Browns.

"That's why they have me here so if something ever happened to Ben, we don't have to change anything, we can still go out there and play football," said Leftwich. "That's going to be our plan."

Leftwich is one of two old veterans and former starters who back up Roethlisberger, who at 30 is the youngest of the three. Leftwich, 32, was the seventh overall player drafted in 2003 and Jacksonville started him early. Charlie Batch, who turns 38 in three weeks, was drafted in the second round by the Lions in 1998 and quickly became their starter.

Both quarterbacks have been plagued through the years by injuries. Leftwich came to the Steelers as a free agent in 2008. He played in five games that season and helped them win a couple on way to their sixth Super Bowl victory that season.

He left as a free agent in 2009 to sign with Tampa Bay, but was injured early there and played in only those first three games. The Steelers got him back in 2010 in a trade for a seventh-round pick and he was set to start the first four games of that season for a suspended Roethlisberger. A preseason knee injury ended that and he only made a brief appearance in the final game of that season.

He missed all of the 2011 season with a broken arm sustained in a preseason game.

"The way this league is going, there's not a quarterback out here that's really playing 16 games," Leftwich said. "So I try to tell myself that all the time during the week when it's hard -- 'Stay on it, stay on it, stay on it, stay on it' because you never know."
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