The best news to come out of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bye week was easily that Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice.
The star quarterback sat out last Sunday’s 27-16 loss to the New England Patriots, the Steelers’ second loss in a row, while recovering from arthroscopic left knee surgery performed Oct. 17, a day he was injured in a loss to the Dolphins at Miami.
While the Steelers (4-3) made no declarations on Roethlisberger’s status, it seems likely he will return to action Nov. 6 for the game against the Ravens (3-4) at Baltimore.
“It was good to see him back out there,” Steelers quarterback coach Randy Fichtner said. “He was moving a little bit. He got to make some throws. It’s always good when he is working with the young quarterbacks too.”
The Steelers went through light workouts Tuesday and Wednesday then began on a four-day vacation. They return to practice Monday in preparation to face the Ravens and Roethlisberger will likely ramp his workload up then.
“We didn’t push it much,” Fichtner said. “He probably would want to do more. I think the schedule lets us hold until next week because we still have four more days to rest.”
“(The bye) is very valuable to our team. We have had some guys banged up, him included. It will be a good time to get some rest and get away from it and come back refreshed on Monday.”
Tight end Ladarius Green practiced for the first time all season this week. He was signed to a four-year, $20-million contract in the offseason to replace the retired Heath Miller but was slow to recover ankle surgery performed at the end of last season.
Roethlisberger and Green, who is expected to be activated from the physically unable to perform list next week, had the opportunity to work together for the first time.
“You have to build that continuity and that togetherness,” Fichtner said. “That repetition of throws and catches and route depth, timing. Any rep we can get, and we stole a couple, will be good for both of them.”
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was happy to get a look at Green on the field. Green spent the first four seasons of his career with the San Diego Chargers, backing up star Antonio Gates and catching 77 passes for 1,087 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Mentally, he was extremely sharp and I think that’s a testament to his staying in it, working even though he wasn’t out there with us, he was on the side,” Haley said. “That’s a lot easier to talk about than to do. He came out and from a mental standpoint was very, very good.”
“Physical standpoint, we’re in shorts. We’ve got to get in pads and see some of that side of it, it’s obviously important. But for the first two days, I thought it was very positive.”
Landry Jones started at quarterback against the Patriots and completed 29 of 47 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown with one interception. If Roethlisberger isn’t ready to face the Ravens, Jones knows what he must do better — be more successful in the red zone after the Steelers scored only one time in four trips inside the Patriots’ 20 last week.
“We just didn’t make enough plays in the red zone,” Jones said. “That was the huge contributing factor to the game. As far as us moving the ball up and down the field, we do just fine. We put ourselves in position to score. We just have to get it in the end zone. You have to learn from your mistakes. I made some really bad decisions down there. I need to get cleaner as far as being decisive.”