There have been times when Coach Mike Tomlin used his weekly news conference to announce definitive decisions about whether certain players would be available for the upcoming game. Today's session was not one of those times.
Ben Roethlisberger injured a knee against the Dolphins in Miami on Oct. 16, and that injury required a surgical procedure the following day to repair his meniscus. That was 15 days ago, and following a bye week in which Roethlisberger and Cam Heyward and Marcus Gilbert, among some others, were able to participate in those practices to some degree, Tomlin was holding out hope for Sunday's game against the Ravens in Baltimore.
"Regarding Ben's availability and the availability of all the guys who have worked in some capacity during our bye week, all the (options) are on the table," said Tomlin. "We're just going to let this process that is our week of preparation be our guide in terms of whether or not they play. And if they are available, how much they play."
Responding to questions, Tomlin left open the possibility that Landry Jones could start, with Roethlisberger in uniform against the Ravens as the No. 2 quarterback, and he would not specify what he will have to see from Roethlisberger during the week to start him or to have him in uniform on Sunday.
"We're going to do it on a day-by-day basis based on the availability of the men, how they feel in their overall readiness in terms of their capability of attacking that day's challenge," said Tomlin. "That's what we did yesterday, and we'll see the ramifications of that work and make decisions about tomorrow when we get here tomorrow."
Often, a player dealing with an injury might be able to practice one day but then his physical reaction the next day to that practice either allows him to proceed or serves as a setback. Tomlin indicated the Steelers will wait until Wednesday to see how Roethlisberger's knee responds to the on-field work he did on Monday. In this way, the information contained on the Steelers' practice report this week could be what provides the most significant clues about Roethlisberger, Heyward, and Gilbert when it comes to playing against the Ravens.
"I thought it was generally positive," said Tomlin about Roethlisberger's physical response to the practice work he has gotten so far. "We hadn't spent a lot of time analyzing it or talking about it at this juncture. Really, it's been giving him the work and him taking the work. And he's done a really good job with it."
The Steelers started the 21-day clock on Ladarius Green last week, and Tomlin said he was pleased with what Green was able to do during the bye week, not only from a physical standpoint in terms of the ankle injury that had landed him on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and then kept him there, but also from the know-how and understanding Green displayed after not practicing with the team at all since signed as an unrestricted free agent in March.
"We're just going to take it day-by-day. It has been a pleasant surprise that he has displayed some detail in his work for a guy who hasn't had a lot of physical work. That speaks to the fact that he's a veteran player, and also that he's capable of learning from the repetitions of others. That speaks to a potential quick learning curve, which is helpful to his charge and ours."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"By a get-what-you-need week, I mean we were very specific about providing work opportunities for those who needed work, and people needed work for a variety of reasons. Within that group, it was a good week for Marcus Gilbert because he got work coming off his (ankle) injury; Cam Heyward got work coming off his (hamstring) injury as well; Ladarius Green got work coming off his (ankle) injury.
"It also was a great week to get some rest or restoration for those who needed it. A number of guys were dealing with a variety of issues: Markus Wheaton with his shoulder; Sammie Coates with his broken finger; Antonio Brown with his hip injury sustained vs. New England; Le'Veon Bell has been dealing with a sore knee for a number of weeks.
"I'll get real specific about the health of some of the guys and give you an assessment there: Cody Wallace (knee) is really the only guy who has been experiencing health issues that we've talked about repeatedly who didn't get a lot of work last week. We'll still see where the week takes us in regards to his work and hopefully his ability to work, and then if he is available to us from a work standpoint then we'll let his overall effectiveness in things be our guide.
"A number of guys who have missed time in recent weeks with injury, like I said, have worked and we'll continue to work those guys. Like always, we'll let their reaction to that work be a guide for us. We'll let the quality of that work be a guide for us in terms of determining their availability in this football game. All could have a chance to play, and we have that mentality regarding their availability. Marcus Gilbert as he comes off his ankle injury; Cam Heyward as he comes off his hamstring injury; Robert Golden as he comes off his groin injury; Ben Roethlisberger as he comes off his knee injury; and DeAngelo Williams as he comes off his knee injury.
"Ladarius Green is still on the PUP list, but we've started that transition period, where he'll have 21 days to work before we have to make a decision about what we have to do with him," said Tomlin. "We started that last week. He's worked nicely. We've been pleased with his progress, not only in terms of his physical abilities, but he's had an opportunity to show us some mental abilities, some detail has been displayed in his work from a guy who hasn't had a lot of physical repetitions. That's been exciting. Hopefully that's an asset to us as we come to a decision about when to activate him. Hopefully, his quick study will make that decision one that happens quicker and easier.