Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was reportedly not in his shoulder sling Wednesday, and Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell noted he pulled his shirt up over his arms and neck with ease.
Obviously, pulling a shirt off and on does little to show his ability to throw a football, but it does paint a slightly more optimistic picture than the one painted since Roethlisberger suffered an SC joint sprain during the Steelers' Week 10 game against Kansas City.
After all the hoopla surrounding the birth of his son possibly causing Roethlisberger to miss a game, he may end up not traveling with the team to Cleveland to take on the Browns in Week 12, but the possibility of him turning around and making the start against the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 13 is beginning to rise slightly toward the surface.
Much of this will depend on how the Steelers' offense is able to perform this weekend against a defense that, heading into Week 11, at least, was statistically stronger than that of the Ravens. With the Steelers putting back-ups in critical positions (quarterback, wide receiver), the Ravens were able to hold them to a less-than-average performance by the Steelers standards. They also injured both Byron Leftwich and WR Jerricho Cotchery in the process, meaning the Steelers offense on the field Sunday will have several players out of action.
Perhaps it's a step back aimed at giving them the chance to take two steps forward the following week.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau ran his record in Pittsburgh facing rookie quarterbacks to 15-1 after thrashing Washington's Robert Griffin III in Week 8. He'll face Cleveland's rookie QB Brandon Weeden for the first of two games this season, and his defense is playing as well as it has in the last few years.
Cleveland's offense is as one-dimensional as offenses come, and LeBeau's D tees off on one-dimensional offenses. With Roethlisberger's condition improving, and the Steelers' defense having a favorable match-up this weekend, scoring a big road win in what will likely be a low-scoring affair (three of the last four games these teams played in Cleveland have combined 57 total scored points) could mean one final shot at a run at the division title by being closer to 100 percent on offense heading into Baltimore in Week 13.
Cleveland's played the Steelers tough three of the last four times they've met at Cleveland Browns Stadium, so there's certainly no more reason to look past this game than there was against Kansas City. Win or lose, though, the Steelers still have a Week 13 game, just as they have a Week 12 game, but only one of those has a chance of their starting quarterback returning to the field.