As news broke throughout the Under Armour Performance Center on Wednesday that Ben Roethlisberger has been ruled out for Sunday night’s game between the Ravens and Steelers, Baltimore players and coaches reacted differently.
Many took it in stride with even-keel, “injuries are part of the game” reactions. Linebacker Terrell Suggs took it as gamesmanship, refusing to believe the Steelers quarterback will be out until someone else takes the field Sunday.
Safety Bernard Pollard didn’t have much sympathy for Pittsburgh, which has also been without star safety Troy Polamalu, because the Ravens have had to play without Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and others.
“You’re going to lose people. Nobody’s exempt. It’s inevitable. That everybody’s going to stay healthy, that’s not happening. It’s not,” Pollard said. “And I think for us, the guys that got hurt, it sucked. It sucks. I know them playing without Polamalu, them playing without Ben, that’s going to hurt them in so many ways. But at the end of the day, the game’s still going to be played on Sunday night.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said his team’s preparations won’t change because Roethlisberger is out with a sprained shoulder and rib injury suffered on the same play Monday against Kansas City.
“We don’t really concern ourselves with injuries. We haven’t concerned ourselves with our own team’s injuries. Why are we going to concern ourselves with somebody else’s injuries?” Harbaugh said. “Our focus is going to be on playing the team that we’re going to play. It always is and playing as well as we’re going to play.
“You defend the offense. They’ve got weapons all over the field. They’re one of the most talented, if not the most talented, offenses in football. All those guys are going to be out there playing and Byron Leftwich or Charlie Batch is fully capable of running that offense very well.”
Early reports indicate Leftwich will start in Roethlisberger’s place. But Suggs isn’t buying it yet.
“We don’t know if he’s out,” Suggs said. “The guy played down here a couple years ago with a broken ankle, so until the ball’s kicked off on Sunday night and they start calling plays under center, I wouldn’t rule him out just yet.
“Until the ball is snapped, I’m still preparing as if he’s playing,” he added. “I expect him.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin tried to squash the notion that Roethlisberger could suit up Sunday during a conference call with Baltimore reporters by succinctly saying, “He’s out.”
So with Suggs believing Roethlisberger will still start, will he prepare for Leftwich?
“We’re going to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t think the game plan’s pretty much going to change, (no matter) who’s under center. They’re going to be who they are. They’re going to do what Pittsburgh does,” Suggs said. “They’re going to play Pittsburgh football, and we’re going to show up and we’re going to prepare all week and we’re going to prepare to play Ravens football. We’re just going to prepare to play the Steelers and if (Roethlisberger) is under center - I expect him to play; like I said, he came to play with a broken ankle - whoever we get is going to play football.”
And if it’s Leftwich getting the nod, the Ravens will be up against a quarterback who hasn’t started an NFL game since 2009.
In 2005, he seemed to be on the rise, beginning to live up to where he was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars (seventh overall in 2003). But injuries derailed his career and relegated him to backup duties. Leftwich has spent four of the last five years with the Steelers.
The Ravens don’t believe they’re facing a slouch with him under center, even if the team is 4-0 against the Steelers when they’re without Roethlisberger since he became the Pittsburgh starter in 2004.
“The thing about Byron that personally I’ve always been impressed with is, first of all, his competitiveness,” Harbaugh said. “Highly successful at one time with Jacksonville and he was one of the premier quarterbacks in football. He’s still got those skills. I think he’s obviously got a lot of wear. ... He’s a smart player.”
Said Pollard: “This is a guy who’s a smart guy, a very smart guy. You’ve got to look at the way he plays the game. He’s shown he can win in this league. They’re not going to change the playbook for him because he can go out there, he can throw the ball with the best of the quarterbacks in the league. He can take off and run if he wants to.
“He’s shown in his career, in college and in the pros, when he gets hurt, this guy’s going to still play, if it takes his linemen helping him down the field. We all know him. You look at the competition, you look at the competitors that they have at the quarterback position, they’ve got a tough bunch.”