Despite suffering his second concussion in about four months, Roethlisberger is expected to start Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Oakland Raiders with Porter—who is returning from a suspension.
Roethlisberger is listed as questionable after being briefly knocked unconscious during a helmet-to-helmet hit with the Falcons’ Chauncey Davis midway through the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s 41-38 overtime loss in Atlanta last Sunday.
In Thursday’s practice, however, Roethlisberger took most of the snaps with the Steelers’ starting offense and appeared as if he would be ready to play against Oakland.
“I’m very encouraged by how he feels,” Steelers coach Bill Cowher said.
Cowher said a final decision on Roethlisberger’s status would not be made until game time Sunday, mostly because his quarterback still must pass more post-concussion tests. He has passed all of them so far.
“People always speculate that after you have one concussion, you’re susceptible to more and then more on top of that,” Roethlisberger said. “But from what we’ve researched and understood is that as time passes, that susceptibility goes away.”
This is Roethlisberger’s third significant medical problem since June. He also sustained a concussion, and needed seven hours of surgery—mostly to repair facial injuries—when his motorcycle collided with a car June 12 in Pittsburgh.
He missed the Sept. 7 season opener against the Miami Dolphins after an emergency appendectomy four days earlier. It is the only full game he has missed this season. He looked rusty in losing his first three starts after returning, throwing seven interceptions while failing to record a touchdown.
He’s looked sharper the last two games by going 32-of-41 for 476 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Porter, meanwhile, has not had a chance to help the Raiders (1-5) this season. He returned to the team Wednesday after the NFL Players Association dropped its appeal of the receiver’s four-game suspension and the team reduced the punishment to two games.
Raiders coach Art Shell said he planned to talk to the receiver, but would not commit to using him in a game for the first time this season.
Porter was suspended Oct. 15 for insubordination a day after being kicked out of practice by Shell. When Shell was hired in February, he clashed with and later suspended Porter regarding the seventh-year wide receiver’s workout plans.
Porter made public a trade demand at the start of training camp and was inactive for the four games before the suspension.
“He’ll have to come back and work, abide by the rules and regulations that this team is under,” Shell said. “Everybody on this team is under the same umbrella.”
Porter, in the second year of a five-year contract worth $20 million, had a team-high 76 catches for 942 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Oakland’s confidence seems to be growing after its first win, 22-9 over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
“Everybody is in a better mood,” Raiders safety Stuart Schweigert said. “It’s not like you’re dreading going to meetings because the coaches are going to be saying, ‘You have to do this better, you have to do this better.’ Of course there are things we have to do better in the games. But it’s a lot easier to accept after a win.”
Oakland, though, did have five turnovers and eight penalties. The Raiders know they will need to take better care of the ball if they hope to beat the Steelers.
“We can’t have five turnovers in a game and expect to come out victorious,” Shell said. “There are other things that need to be taken care of, so while I want to them to be excited with the win because they’re well deserving of it, there are still things that need to be cleaned up and taken care of.”
Oakland running back LaMont Jordan sat out Sunday’s game after re-aggravating his sore back in warmups, but hopes to start against Pittsburgh. Though he leads the team in rushing with just 314 yards, the Raiders were able to run the ball effectively without Jordan, getting 110 yards total from Justin Fargas and Zack Crockett.
Oakland also finished the game without starting quarterback Andrew Walter, who injured his hamstring but is expected to play in this contest. Walter had his best game as a pro before the injury, going 17-for-30 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception to win for the first time in four career starts.
Roethlisberger was having his best game of the season—he was 16-of-22 for 238 yards and three touchdowns—before Sunday’s injury.
But after the team’s fourth loss in five games, Cowher had reason to fault his players as they continue to self-destruct in the second half. Eleven of the Steelers’ 14 turnovers have come after halftime.
The Steelers already have four losses—two fewer than they had in 2005 (11-5) and 2004 (15-1) combined. And after going 4-0 away from Pittsburgh in the postseason while winning the Super Bowl, they are 0-3 on the road this season.
Pittsburgh beat Oakland 24-21 on Sept. 12, 2004 for its fifth win in six games over the Raiders since 1994.