NFL notebook

Steelers decide to sit Roethlisberger

The choice is never really much of a choice for Ben Roethlisberger.

Given the option to play or rest his badly sprained left ankle today against the struggling Rams, the Steelers quarterback would rather take the field regardless of the pain or the risk.

“I’m in the here and now,’’ Roethlisberger said. “That’s where we are coaches and players and a team.’’


Then again, Roethlisberger allowed, it’s never his call.

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“That’s a coach’s decision, as always,’’ he said.

And this time coach Mike Tomlin decided to go with veteran Charlie Batch.

A playoff spot already clinched, the Steelers (10-4) will try to keep their hopes for an AFC North title alive with Batch, who is 4-2 as a spot starter over the last six seasons.

Yet they allow they’ll approach the game differently if Batch is under center. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians typically comes up with two game plans, one for Roethlisberger and another for the 37-year-old Batch, just in case Roethlisberger can’t play.


Today, it’s time for Plan B.

“We can still make big plays with [Batch],’’ wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “But instead of catching the ball 50 yards down the field, maybe we do it 15 yards down the field and do stuff after the catch.’’

And with Roethlisberger’s ankle limiting his ability to get out of the pocket, Batch gives the Steelers more flexibility in playcalling.

Though he passed for 330 yards in a 20-3 loss to San Francisco, Roethlisberger acknowledged the 49ers quickly figured out what was coming depending on how the team lined up. If he was under center, it was a run; if he was in the shotgun, he was going to sling it.

“I honestly think that’s probably why they deferred when they won the toss,’’ Roethlisberger said. “They were going to come after me.’’


St. Louis certainly figured to do the same with defensive end Chris Long and his 13 sacks leading the way.

Roethlisberger last missed a start due to injury in 2009, when a concussion forced him to sit out a loss to Baltimore.

Giants in tight spot

Tight end Jake Ballard, defensive end Osi Umenyiora, and linebacker Mark Herzlich will miss the Giants game against the Jets today. Umenyiora and Herzlich have been out for weeks with ankle injuries; Ballard sprained a knee late in last weekend’s loss to the Redskins. Bear Pascoe is expected to start for Ballard. Mario Manningham, who had three catches for 57 yards against the Redskins, did not practice this week because of a recurring knee injury and is listed as doubtful . . . Jets back Joe McKnight (separated right shoulder, hyperextended elbow) and defensive back Marquice Cole (knee) are questionable.

Butler gets start

The Panthers placed starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on injured reserve with a strained left hamstring. Darius Butler, acquired off waivers earlier this season from the Patriots, will start today against the Buccaneers . . . The Bears might be without running back Marion Barber and return star Devin Hester at Green Bay tomorrow night. Barber (calf) is listed as doubtful and Hester (ankle) questionable, although coach Lovie Smith says it’s “not looking real good’’ after they sat out practice this week . . . Cowboys running back Felix Jones is questionable for today’s game against the Eagles after missing practice all week because of hamstring tightness. Former Patriot Sammy Morris, a 12-year veteran who made his season debut last week, would start if Jones doesn’t play. The Cowboys yesterday signed journeyman back Chauncey Washington to the active roster.

Hits prove costly

Lions defensive end Cliff Avril and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were fined $15,000 apiece by the NFL for horse-collar tackles during last week’s win over the Vikings. The biggest fines of the week - $20,000 apiece - were assessed to Bengals linebacker Dan Skuta for an illegal blindside block and Raiders defensive back Jerome Boyd for an illegal blindside block.

Ex-players bring suit

Nearly two dozen former NFL players are suing the league over severe and permanent brain damage they say is linked to concussions suffered on the job. The complaint filed Thursday in Miami follows a similar one in Atlanta earlier this week. It is the latest in a series of recent lawsuits against the NFL by ex-players. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of ex-Dolphins teammates Patrick Surtain and Oronde Gadsden, and 19 other players. It accuses the NFL of deliberately omitting or concealing years of evidence linking concussions to long-term neurological problems. The NFL denies the charges and says player safety has long been a priority.