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Like anything else involving a large group, there was unlikely to be a unanimous opinion among Cleveland Browns players on the coaches' decision to stick with Brian Hoyer at quarterback.
Maybe, but the Pittsburgh Steelers star did neither on Wednesday. Coach Mike Tomlin gave his quarterback a rare day off with a showdown at AFC North leader Cincinnati looming this weekend.
Roethlisberger and Tomlin said the decision to skip practice had nothing to do with the wrist Roethlisberger slammed against a helmet during last Sunday's 35-32 loss to New Orleans. While his teammates went through drills Roethlisberger watched in sweatpants wearing black gloves on both hands, though he did his customary post-workout throwing with a handful of skill position players.
The 32-year-old downplayed the idea his wrist is anything more than sore. Quarterbacks always have their hands heading toward places they're not supposed to go. So when his throwing hand smacked the helmet of New Orleans linebacker Curtis Lofton in the first quarter last weekend, he didn't panic.
''It was just loss of feeling in the two fingers and nothing that you can't play through,'' Roethlisberger said.
He didn't miss a snap while throwing for 435 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions, a performance that looked better on paper than it did in person. Both scoring tosses came in garbage time when the Steelers (7-5) were hopelessly behind and Roethlisberger struggled to find any sustained rhythm on a day he completed just 32 of 58 passes, his second-most inaccurate day of a mostly sublime season.
An MVP candidate a month ago after throwing for an NFL record dozen touchdowns in wins over Indianapolis and Baltimore, Roethlisberger has come back to earth in recent weeks. So has his team.
The Steelers (7-5) are just 1-2 since Roethlisberger's 340-yard, six-score masterpiece in a 43-23 demolition of the Ravens on Nov. 2. His quarterback rating over the last three games is a pedestrian 79.3 and he's thrown more passes to the other team (five) than he did in the first nine games combined (three).
Whether it was the wrist or the conditions or poor mechanics, Roethlisberger lacked his usual crispness against New Orleans. At least a dozen passes either sailed high and out of reach to his receivers or were batted down at the line of scrimmage. When he gambled, it didn't work. He threw a jump ball to a double-covered Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first half that was picked off in the end zone. The Saints then drove the length of the field for a touchdown to go up 14-6.
While Tomlin excused Roethlisberger's mini-slump, the 32-year-old is well aware that Pittsburgh's pursuit of a playoff spot will rely heavily on how his ability to bounce back quickly starting.
''If we're not always playing our best, me particularly, then that hurts because the ball goes through my hands every single play,'' he said. ''I need to play better and that will hopefully in turn help the rest of the offense play better.''
Seeing the Bengals (8-3-1) on the other side of the line of scrimmage generally helps. Roethlisberger is 14-6 against Cincinnati in his career and is typically at his best late in the year. Roethlisberger is 31-13 in games played after Dec. 1, though the Steelers have split with the Bengals in each of the last two years.
''I've been here a long time and so it's easy for me to know what this game means and what this part of the season means,'' he said. ''We'll keep an eye on the young guys and make sure that they understand the importance of it as well.''
A victory Sunday and Pittsburgh is right back in the mix for the division title. A loss and the Steelers likely need to win out to have any shot at the playoffs. As explosive as the offense has looked at times, Pittsburgh is averaging just 18.3 points a game on the road compared to 35 at home. It's a disparity that Roethlisberger knows needs to even out.
''We're a confident group,'' he said. ''We feel that we've got some players that are some of the best playmakers in the game of football. We just need to come out and execute and play good football when it counts.''
NOTES: LB James Harrison (knee), tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and safety Troy Polamalu (illness) also did not practice on Wednesday. ... Rookie LB Ryan Shazier was a full participant and should play for the first time in a month barring a setback.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-2) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-3)
The Panthers are hoping to win their sixth straight game when they host the Patriots on Monday night.
Carolina is coming off of a defensive battle with the 49ers in which it came out on top 10-9, marking its fifth consecutive win (SU and ATS). New England, however, won a 55-31 shootout with the Steelers before last week's bye. That win moved the Patriots to 5-4 ATS for the season, but they are just 1-3 ATS on the road. The Panthers are 6-3 ATS overall, and 3-1 ATS at home. The last time these teams met was in December of 2009 when New England won 20-10, but failed to cover a 12.5-point spread at home. Since the Panthers entered the league in 1995, the Patriots hold a 3-2 SU series advantage, but Carolina is 4-1 ATS in the series. Both teams have some positive trends, as New England is 23-7 ATS (77percent) after gaining 175 or more rushing yards in their last game since 1992 and they are 79-45 ATS (64percent) as an underdog during that time. However, over the past three seasons, the Panthers are 14-4 ATS (78percent) after playing their last game on the road, and 7-3 ATS after allowing 14 points or less in their previous game. The Patriots are excited to finally have RB Shane Vereen (wrist) back on the field, but top CB Aqib Talib (hip) is still questionable for Monday night. Carolina enters this one pretty healthy, with the biggest concern being G Chris Scott, who is questionable with a knee injury.
New England finally got its offense going against the Steelers last game, racking up 610 yards of total offense. QB Tom Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns in the game, giving him 13 touchdown passes on the season and just six interceptions, a far cry from his 34 TD and 8 INT in 2012. TE Rob Gronkowski and WRs Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson all had more than 120 receiving yards and a touchdown, with the rookie Dobson scoring twice. RB Stevan Ridley extended his touchdown game streak to four with 115 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts (4.4 YPC). Brady now plays against the Carolina defense, which has been dominant all season. New Englands defense will have to do a better job stopping the run in order to slow down QB Cam Newton and his Panthers offense. The Patriots allow 128.2 rushing yards per game (30th in NFL) and that does not bode well for them against Carolina. They are, however, a solid team against the pass as they allow just 232.8 yards per game through the air (12th in NFL). New England's defense has done a poor job of getting of the field on third down (40.3percent conversions, 24th in NFL), but has held strong in the red zone (48.3percent, 7th in NFL). CB Aqib Talib, who is the Patriots best man-to-man defender in the secondary hasn't played since injuring his hip in Week 6, and could be a key addition if he's able to suit up on Monday night. New England will be looking to strip the football, having produced 11 takeaways over the past five games.
NFL: Denvers Von Miller apologizes for six-game ban
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
First Published Aug 20 2013 09:22 pm Last Updated Aug 20 2013 11:41 pm
Denver The NFL on Tuesday slapped Broncos star linebacker Von Miller with a six-game suspension for violating its drug policy.
Never mind the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos chances to win the Super Bowl were delivered a serious blow by the league office.
The suspension comes after league officials and Millers lawyers finalized a resolution Tuesday.
The suspension is without pay. Miller was scheduled to draw a $2,284,125 salary this season. The six missed checks over a 17-week season will cost him $806,162.
"Although my suspension doesnt result from a positive test, there is no excuse for my violations of the rules," Miller said in a statement. "I made mistakes and my suspension has hurt my team, Broncos fans, and myself. I am especially sorry for the effect of my bad decisions on others.
The suspension begins with the start of the season. He is expected to start in the Broncos preseason game Saturday night against St. Louis at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Broncos coach John Fox said in a statement:
"Replacing him on the field will not be easy, but every team must deal with adversity. We will plan accordingly and be prepared. I am confident our team will step up and meet the challenge.
"I expect Von to stay in excellent shape and be ready to play at a high level when he returns to the Broncos."
In Millers first two NFL seasons he won the defensive rookie of the year award, earned two Pro Bowl appearances and registered 30 sacks.