PITTSBURGH — The choice is never really much of a choice for Ben Roethlisberger.
Given the option to play or rest his badly sprained left ankle on Saturday against struggling St. Louis, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback would rather take the field regardless of the pain or the risk.
"I'm in the here and now," Roethlisberger said. "That's where we are coaches and players and a team."
Then again, Roethlisberger allowed, it's never his call.
"That's a coach's decision, as always," he said.
And coach Mike Tomlin decided to go with veteran backup Charlie Batch.
A playoff spot already clinched, the Steelers (10-4) will try to keep their hopes for an AFC North title alive with Batch, who is 4-2 as a spot starter over the last six seasons.
Yet they allow they'll approach the game differently if Batch is under center. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians typically comes up with two game plans, one for Roethlisberger and another for the 37-year-old Batch, just in case Roethlisberger can't play.
On Saturday, it's time for Plan B.
Though he lacks Roethlisberger's big-time arm, Batch can still get it done. He went 1-1 last season while filling in as Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
"We can still make big plays with (Batch)," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "But instead of catching the ball 50 yards down the field, maybe we do it 15 yards down the field and do stuff after the catch."
And with Roethlisberger's ankle limiting his ability to get out of the pocket, Batch gives the Steelers more flexibility in playcalling.
Though he passed for 330 yards in a 20-3 loss to San Francisco, Roethlisberger acknowledged the 49ers quickly figured out what was coming depending on how the team lined up. If he was under center, it was a run. If he was in the shotgun, he was going to sling it.
"I honestly think that's probably why they deferred when they won the toss," Roethlisberger said. "They were going to come after me."
St. Louis certainly figured to do the same with defensive end Chris Long and his 13 sacks leading the way. Instead Long will chase down Batch or third quarterback Dennis Dixon.
"(Batch and Dixons) are certainly more mobile," St. Louis defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "They have a little bit more scrambling ability. Ben does a great job of getting away from pressure, but that ankle I'm sure has been a problem for him."
Roethlisberger doesn't necessarily agree. Despite throwing the ball 44 times in San Francisco and taking a handful of shots in the process, the two-time Super Bowl winner wanted to play against the Rams even if he was "five percent" even if it adversely affected his team's postseason chances.
"I don't go out there worrying about playing with an injury," he said. "I don't go out there worrying about getting hurt worse."
Now he won't have to, making Saturday a battle of the backups.
St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, didn't practice this week and appears likely to miss his fifth game of the season with a sprained ankle of his own.
Still, like Roethlisberger, Bradford would prefer to be on the field. It's why he refused to be placed on season-ending injured reserve even if the Rams are putting the finishing touches on an eighth consecutive non-winning season.
"It's my job, that's why I'm here," Bradford said. "I'm here to play football, I'm not here to ride the bike, I'm not here to sit on the sideline."
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