October 22, 2014

Andrew Luck may be drawing closer to a return, though the Indianapolis Colts certainly haven't needed him to lead their remarkable turnaround.

After there had been some confusion about Ben Roethlisberger's condition, the Pittsburgh Steelers are happy to learn that he's been cleared to play.

As Matt Hasselbeck looks to guide the AFC South co-leaders to a fourth straight win, Pittsburgh will try to avoid losing ground in the playoff picture Sunday night at Heinz Field.

Luck has been bruised and battered while guiding Indianapolis (6-5) - a preseason Super Bowl contender by some - to two wins in seven starts. He missed two games with a shoulder injury earlier in the season and has been dealing with multiple rib fractures since Week 3.

The star quarterback will miss his third straight game due to a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle, leaving Hasselbeck to take over again this weekend.

The 40-year-old signal-caller will try to improve to 5-0 as a starter after completing 26 of 41 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns in last Sunday's 25-12 home win over Tampa Bay.

"Obviously, at his age, being 4-0 as a backup quarterback it's great for us," coach Chuck Pagano said. "We're very, very fortunate and I just hope he keeps it going.''

The three-time Pro Bowler has joined Brett Favre and Warren Moon as the only Super Bowl era starters to win four straight starts in their 40s. The run has led some to suggest there might be a quarterback controversy brewing, though Pagano insists that's not the case.

''Andrew is our starting quarterback,'' he said. "When he is healthy and he is 100 percent healthy and the doctors and our trainers say he is ready to roll then he is going to be under center.''

Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton had a combined 14 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns last week as the Colts remained in a first-place tie with Houston. They teamed for 13 receptions, 286 yards and two scores in a 51-34 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 26, 2014, in the most recent meeting.

Indianapolis could continue that success through the air against a Pittsburgh team that ranks 30th against the pass, allowing 283.6 yards per game.

The Steelers have been solid against the run, ranking seventh at 93.6 yards allowed per game. Colts running back Frank Gore has totaled 58 yards on 1.8 per carry over his last two games and Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a season-ending wrist injury last weekend.

Pittsburgh (6-5) had been 4-2 when Roethlisberger played before he left last weekend's 39-30 loss at Seattle in the final two minutes after getting struck in the head. Roethlisberger said on his radio show that he didn't have a concussion, but coach Mike Tomlin said during his news conference that his quarterback had indeed been diagnosed with one.

"I said I didn't know the results then, but I felt good because when I left the training room the trainers told me this looks good,'' Roethlisberger said. ''Don't see why this would be an issue. That's why I said I didn't have a concussion and would be ready to go.''

Regardless, the three-time Pro Bowler has been removed from the concussion protocol after completing 36 of 55 attempts for 456 yards - the most ever against Seattle. He's thrown for an average of 389.7 yards with six scores and four picks over his last three games.

Roethlisberger threw for a franchise-record 522 yards and tied his own team mark with six touchdowns against the Colts last season. However, he had two of the team's four turnovers last weekend as it fell into a tie with Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis and New York.

''It's one of those things where we have a lot of games left that we have to win,'' guard David DeCastro said. ''We've got to make it happen.''

Markus Wheaton hopes to build on the best game of his three-year career after finishing with nine receptions for 201 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown was limited to six catches for 51 yards after totaling 27 and 432 with two scores over his previous two contests.

The Steelers, 4-2 at home, could have a big passing day against an Indianapolis team that ranks 27th, allowing 272.8 yards per game. The Colts also rank 24th against the run (115.1), though Pittsburgh has rushed for a total of 118 yards in its past two games.

Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams (ankle) is probable for Indianapolis, which has dropped 13 of 15 all-time meetings in Pittsburgh - including the playoffs.

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