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Nursing a sprained shoulder, Roethlisberger tries to lead the Steelers to their first win in Philadelphia in 43 years on Sunday against McNabb and the high-scoring Eagles.
Roethlisberger didn’t have to work too hard in Pittsburgh’s season-opening 38-17 win over Houston, where he completed 13-of-14 passes for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns in three quarters of action. However, he appeared shaken after landing on his shoulder during a sack.
He was limited in practice before the Steelers (2-0) went into Cleveland on Sunday night, but played well amid windy conditions and a shoulder a television reporter described as “separated.” Roethlisberger went 12-for-19 for 186 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 10-6 victory, and through two weeks is the NFL’s highest-rated passer (136.3).
This week, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin denied his quarterback’s shoulder was separated, explaining it was a sprain to his AC joint - which attaches the collarbone to the shoulder blade.
“I have no idea where that report came from,” Tomlin said of the shoulder separation rumors. “It didn’t come from me or my medical staff.”
Tomlin says Roethlisberger will play against the Eagles (1-1), though he’ll likely continue to miss some practice time.
“Some guys require a great number of snaps to get prepared to play,” Tomlin said. “Some guys can learn visually, film room and so forth. Thankfully with Ben he’s a pretty quick study and sharp guy. … It doesn’t take him a great number of reps to be prepared to play.
“Hopefully it won’t be an issue this week. I know it won’t be an excuse.”
If Roethlisberger is limited, he can at least find the AFC’s leading rusher lined up behind him. Willie Parker has gone over 100 yards in each of his first two games and looks to be fully recovered from a broken leg he suffered last December.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is thankful it has an injury-free McNabb under center, something that hasn’t happened for a full season since 2004. McNabb went on injured reserve in late November in both 2005 and 2006, the first time due to a sports hernia and the second thanks to a torn ACL.
He also missed two games last season because of an ankle injury, but he’s been healthy to start 2008 and the Eagles’ offense has been outstanding. McNabb is 46-for-70 for 642 yards, has thrown four touchdowns without an interception and has a 114.1 passer rating.
He threw for 281 yards and a touchdown Monday at Dallas, but a crucial turnover on a botched handoff between McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook led to a Cowboys touchdown and, eventually, a 41-37 loss.
“There are a lot of positives we can take from this game,” said McNabb, who’s leading the NFC’s highest-scoring offense (37.5 points per game). “But that’s not important right now. What we need to do is focus on the working on the negatives. That’s going to make us a better team.”
One of those positives has been rookie receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson, who hauled in six catches for 106 yards in the opener, had six for 110 against Dallas to become the second player in NFL history to open his career with consecutive 100-yard games. The other was Don Looney in 1940, also for Philadelphia.
Jackson, though, would have had one more yard and a touchdown Monday if not for dropping the ball at the 1-yard-line and beginning a premature celebration after a 60-yard grab in the second quarter. Because the whistle was blown, the Eagles retained possession and Westbrook scored on the next play.
“You have to trust him,” McNabb said. “You show (young players) that you have trust in them, which, obviously, leads to them trusting me.”
McNabb and Roethlisberger have met once, in 2004 at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to a 27-3 win in that game, while McNabb threw for just 109 yards and an interception.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are separated by 300 miles of turnpike, but the Pennsylvania rivals haven’t played a regular-season game in Philadelphia since 1997. The Steelers haven’t won there in the Super Bowl era, losing seven straight to the Eagles on the road since 1965.