Challenge Against Steelers is Similar With or Without Roethlisberger, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Dungy knows this much about the quarterback situation of the Colts' opponent this week: someone will start at the position.
It may be usual starter Ben Roethlisberger.
Or backup Byron Leftwich will start.
Beyond that, the Colts' head coach said he doesn't know, and moreover, he said it doesn't matter too, too much in preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both are good, Dungy said. Both will play well.
And either way, Dungy said, the Steelers' approach doesn't change much.
"It really doesn't matter," Dungy said Wednesday afternoon as the Colts (4-4) prepared to play the AFC North-leading Steelers (6-2) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"Byron came in (Monday) and they ran the same plays and did everything the same. He gave them a big lift."
Roethlisberger, a Pro Bowl selection last season, left the Steelers' victory over the Washington Redskins this past Monday with a shoulder injury after scoring on a 1-yard sneak just before halftime. He had sustained a slight separation of his right – and throwing – shoulder in the Steelers' opener, but started the Steelers' next seven games.
Roethlisberger, who has started 38 of the last 39 games, completed 5 of 17 passes for 50 yards and no touchdowns with an interception against Washington.
Leftwich, who started for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-2006, completed seven of 10 second-half passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in a 23-6 Steelers victory.
Roethlisberger was scheduled to undergo an MRI Tuesday, and as of Wednesday, the Steelers had not announced his status for Sunday.
"Roethlisberger has played a lot without practicing," Dungy said. "My sense is he'll be in there if there's any way possible, even if he doesn't practice. So, that's who we're preparing for, but you're going to have to defeat that system whoever the quarterback is."
Dungy discussed the Steelers' quarterback situation on the same day the Colts announced they had signed defensive tackle Antonio Johnson from the practice squad of the Tennessee Titans.
The Colts placed running back Clifton Dawson on injured reserve.
Johnson (6-feet-3, 310 pounds), a fifth-round selection by the Tennessee Titans in the 2007 NFL Draft, spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a knee injury and had spent this season on the Titans' practice squad after being waived just before the start of the regular season.
Johnson played collegiately at Mississippi State, where he started five of 23 games, registering 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
"We liked him coming out of school and had some pretty good grades on him," Dungy said. "We're at a point where we're looking for interior defensive lineman and he was a guy we liked who was available. We had a chance to sign him and we'll see how he does.
"He should be able to acclimate pretty quickly."
Also, Dungy said the Colts have elevated guard Ryan Lilja to a status under which he can practice. Lilja, who has spent the first nine weeks of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, has yet to be elevated to the active roster, Dungy said.
Lilja, a fifth-year veteran, started 43 games in his first four seasons and has been out this season with a knee injury.
"We'll see how that goes," Dungy said. "We have three weeks to watch him and see how he does and make a decision. We can activate him at any point during that period, but we have to do something at the end of three weeks."
Also on Wednesday, Dungy said the Colts could be a bit healthier at cornerback this week than last, with second-year veteran Dante Hughes likely returning.
Hughes missed this past Sunday's victory over New England with an ankle injury. Starter Kelvin Hayden, who missed the last four games with knee and hamstring injuries, likely will miss at least another week, Dungy said.
"Dante Hughes is probably going to be ready to practice and that's going to be good for us," Dungy said.
Keiwan Ratliff, who started at corner Sunday after signing as a free agent Wednesday, and Tim Jennings – who has started the last four games after beginning the season as the team's nickel back – are the two other corners on the roster with extensive NFL experience.
"I just go out and do what the coaches ask me," Ratliff said. "If my number is called, then I'm there."
The Colts also signed cornerback Nick Graham recently, and he is on the active roster.
Also on Wednesday, the Colts released their first injury reof the week, with cornerback Tim Jennings (not injury-related/rested), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), tight end Tom Santi (shoulder), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (not injury-related)/rested), defensive end Dwight Freeney (not injury-related/rested) and defensive end Robert Mathis (not injury-related/rested) listed as not participating in practice.
"I think we're going to be similar to the way we were last week," Dungy said. "Freddy Keiaho should practice and should be ready to go. (Safety) Bob (Sanders) and (running back) Joseph (Addai) made it through the game fine. They should be ready to go.
"I don't know that we got anybody nicked up in the game. . . . All in all, I think we're in pretty good shape and ready to go," Dungy said. "It's just like the last two weeks – a tough team, very physical and a team that's playing well. It's going to be a big challenge for us.
The Colts on Wednesday signed cornerback A.J. Davis to the practice squad, with cornerback Brandon Sumrall moving to the practice squad/injured list.