NFL Notes

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, right, talks with receiver Mike Wallace on the bench after suffering an injury during Monday night's game against the Chiefs in Pittsburgh.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, right, talks with receiver Mike Wallace on the bench after suffering an injury during Monday night's game against the Chiefs in Pittsburgh. Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

Roethlisberger has rib injury too, out vs. Ravens

Right arm tucked into a black sling, weary eyes betraying a decided lack of sleep, Ben Roethlisberger tried to stay positive after the worst - and by far the most harrowing - injury of his career.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback believes he can return this season despite spraining his right shoulder and suffering what he called a dislocated rib in Monday night's overtime win against Kansas City.

He's just not sure when he'll be ready. And his medical team appears nowhere close to figuring out how exactly to get him there.

"From what (the doctor) said he's trying to talk to experts because there is no case study over the exact same thing," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "We're just trying to talk to people ... because we don't know."

All Roethlisberger knows for certain is that doctors are concerned the rib - which he injured while getting sacked by a pair of Kansas City linebackers in the third quarter on Monday - could puncture his aorta if jostled around.

He also knows he'll be a spectator indefinitely while the surging Steelers (6-3) try to track down AFC North-leading Baltimore (7-2). The rivals meet twice over the next three weeks, with the first showdown coming Sunday night at Heinz Field. Veteran backup Byron Leftwich will take the snaps in Roethlisberger's place, looking for his first win as a starter in six years.

"I'm not going to go out there and try and be Ben," Leftwich said. "We see the game differently. He's physically able to do some things that I can't do but that doesn't mean I can't go out there and do my job."

The Steelers have been forced to play with Roethlisberger occasionally over the last nine seasons, going 8-5 without their franchise cornerstone since 2004. Four of those losses, however, have come against the Ravens.

Texans LB Dobbins fined

Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins was fined $30,000 on Wednesday for a helmet-to-helmet hit that gave Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler a concussion.

Dobbins said he plans to appeal.

"It was a lot of zeroes in that picture," he said. "My assessment is (it's) is way too high and I feel like I didn't do anything wrong. I'm not a dirty player. I really can't do nothing but appeal it at this point."

The hit came in the second quarter of Houston's 13-6 win on Sunday night when Dobbins hit a scrambling Cutler after he threw a pass.

Cutler was past the line of scrimmage and called for an illegal forward pass on the play, and Dobbins was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

"I'm definitely disappointed," Dobbins said. "I didn't know if he was going to run the ball or if he was going to pass the ball. I felt like he was past the line. I just went and tried to get a clean hit on him and it just didn't work out, I guess. I looked at the film and it looked like I got a little helmet-to-helmet, but I definitely didn't try, though."

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt had a simple reaction when he heard about the fine.

"That's a lot of money," Watt said, shaking his head.

Cutler remained in the game for the rest of that series and threw an interception. He started experiencing symptoms at halftime and did not return.

Smith practices for 49ers in non-contact jersey

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith went through position work in a non-contact black jersey Wednesday, his status still unclear for Monday night's NFC showdown with the Chicago Bears after he sustained a concussion Sunday against the Rams.

Coach Jim Harbaugh kept an eye on Smith from several yards away as he worked with backup Colin Kaepernick and No. 3 QB Scott Tolzien to get his reps.

Smith would have had to pass concussion tests given by a neurologist to get this far and return to the practice field, but there are still further steps in the process for him to be medically cleared for game action.

Harbaugh said Smith experienced blurred vision on a 1-yard quarterback sneak early in the second quarter of Sunday's 24-24 tie.

Cassel to start at QB for Chiefs vs Bengals

Matt Cassel will start at quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday against Cincinnati because Brady Quinn still has not been cleared to play following a concussion.

Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said that Quinn feels better and could be cleared by the end of the week. But the coach said he couldn't take the chance that Quinn wouldn't be ready for the Bengals.

"He's feeling a lot better, doing a lot better," Crennel said of Quinn, who has sustained two concussions this season. "He went to the doctor and he told him he's doing a lot better. The doctor also told him he was going to monitor him this week, and if he makes it through this week without incident, he could be cleared for the weekend. But he's got to make it through the week."

Cassel will start his third consecutive game. He was the starter earlier this year before sustaining his own concussion in a game against Baltimore. Quinn was the fill-in starter for a game, and then got the permanent job, only to be knocked out of his second start against the Raiders.

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