By JEFF SCHUDEL
When the Cleveland Browns leave the practice facility earlier than normal Thursday to sit around Thanksgiving dinner tables with family and friends, they can give thanks they will not have to contend with Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin all but made it official at his news conference Tuesday when he said Roethlisberger is doubtful and Charlie Batch will get most of the practice time this week. The Browns (2-8) need to win to delay succumbing to their fifth straight losing season. The Steelers (6-4) need to win to keep the Ravens (8-2) in sight.
Roethlisberger is down with a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib, although Tomlin said tests Tuesday were “encouraging.” Byron Leftwich started against the Ravens on Sunday night and sustained two broken ribs and will not play against the Browns.
Because of the injuries to Roethlisberger and Leftwich and broken ribs suffered by wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, the Steelers signed quarterback Brian Hoyer and re-signed wide receiver Plaxico Burress on Tuesday.
Roethlisberger is 14-1 against the Browns and arguably cost Romeo Crennel his job. Crennel never beat the Steelers in eight tries from 2005-08. Their only victory over Pittsburgh since the first meeting of 2003 was a 13-6 triumph in 2009, when the Browns strung together four victories to finish the season.
“No doubt about it, banged up or healthy, it doesn’t matter,” Browns cornerback Dimitri Patterson said Monday. “The guy just extends plays. You go from playing a game where you’re covering from three to four seconds to six to seven seconds. It’s a totally different animal. You have to be in it to know what that feels like. It’s very tough to do. He’s a very good player.”
Roethlisberger has completed 243 of 390 passes for 3,472 yards and 21 touchdowns against the Browns. He has thrown 10 interceptions and has a 98.4 passer rating in those games.
There have been blowout losses, but also some narrow defeats in the Roethlisberger era. The Browns played in Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 2004, and lost, 24-23, when Roethlisberger completed 16 of 21 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown.
“Ben’s a giant man,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “In the pocket, you can hit Ben and not get him down.”
The Browns have sacked Roethlisberger 27 times in 15 games. They got to him eight times in the victory in 2009.