Roethlisberger expected to start

Updated: December 2, 2009, 11:21 AM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expects quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

But unlike last week, Tomlin says the team is not expecting any last-minute complications from Roethlisberger's recent concussion -- the fourth of his career.

"We're not anticipating him having headaches this week," Tomlin confirmed in his Tuesday news conference.

Roethlisberger caused a stir within the team when he practiced with the starters all week but was sidelined by the medical staff one day before last week's crucial loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Roethlisberger had exercise-induced headaches late last week, which forced former third-stringer Dennis Dixon to play in the overtime loss that put Pittsburgh's (6-5) playoff hopes in jeopardy.

Receiver and team captain Hines Ward was among the most vocal in expressing his disappointment that Roethlisberger would not play against the Ravens. But Tomlin said Ward and Roethlisberger have ironed things out.

"I've been informed that those two guys spoke extensively," Tomlin said. "I spoke to Hines last night. He called me and it was a good, clean conversation. He assured me that this football team will be ready to prepare for and ultimately play Oakland when we come here [Wednesday]."

On his official Facebook page, Ward said he and Roethlisberger had resolved the issue and are focusing on Sunday's game. "So the moral of this story is not to do an interview based off of emotions," Ward said in his Facebook post. "I made that mistake and I have apologized to Ben for that. Ben and I are cool and always will be. We will not let this come between us, our talk was very productive."

Roethlisberger, who was having his best season statistically despite the Steelers' erratic play, went through "a normal week" of preparation for the pivotal game at Baltimore and had said he had every intention of playing.

His decision to not play came as the NFL has taken a heightened stance on protecting players from head injuries. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams outlining steps the league is taking to reduce head impacts.

Roethlisberger had two concussions in 2006, including one from a motorcycle accident, and the other last season.

In other injury news Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu is doubtful for Sunday's game. Tomlin believes Polamalu is still about a week or so away from returning.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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