From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- 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.Still, Roethlisberger remains optimistic he'll be back to work at some point over the next seven weeks. Asked if he thinks the injury is season-ending, the two-time Super Bowl winner shrugged his one good shoulder and attempted to remain upbeat."I don't think so, I don't know though but I'm not a medical expert," Roethlisberger said. "I just know I'm going to do what I can to get back."At the moment, doing nothing appears to be the smartest course after his season came to a stunning halt early in the third quarter against the Chiefs.Roethlisberger was stepping up in the pocket trying to extend a third-down play when Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston wrapped up his legs and teammate Tamba Hali drove all of his 265 pounds into Roethlisberger's chest and slammed him to the turf. The quarterback's right arm dug into his side at the moment of impact, dislocating the rib and sending a jagged edge perilously close to the aorta."When I hit the ground is kind of when I felt something not right, like a crunch or a crack," Roethlisberger said. "It's kind of hard to explain."What's easy to explain is the pain, which Roethlisberger described as "nine on a scale of 1-10." Most of the misery is coming from the rib and he joked he'll likely have to hold his son -- who is due to arrive sometime in the next few weeks -- with in his left arm instead of his right.Unless Roethlisberger learns to throw with his left arm too, Pittsburgh's playoff chances will rest with Leftwich. The former first-round pick hasn't started a game in three years and hasn't won one since 2006. He went 7 of 14 for 73 yards in relief against the Chiefs, leading Pittsburgh to a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter."My first few plays I felt like everybody was moving faster than me," Leftwich said. "Maybe that is because I'm slower than everybody. When you ain't out there, let's just be honest, it just takes awhile to get back."A full week of practice and the fact he's spent four of the last five seasons as Roethlisberger's primary backup means Leftwich isn't exactly starting from scratch.Early in his career, Leftwich was one of the most promising quarterbacks in the league. Taken with the seventh overall pick by Jacksonville in the 2003 draft, Leftwich led the Jaguars to a playoff berth in 2005 before things fell apart. He lost his starting job to David Garrard a year later then bounced around between Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay before returning to the Steelers for good in 2010.Leftwich missed all but one game in 2010 due to a knee injury and spent all of 2011 on injured reserve after breaking his arm during a preseason game. Yet the Steelers have kept him around because of his close relationship with Roethlisberger and his arm, which remains one of the strongest in the league. Leftwich actually overthrew speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace on a fly pattern against the Chiefs, a rare feat."We have all the confidence in the world in Byron," Wallace said. "He's been in this league a long time, and he's played a lot of games. We just need to work on some things in practice this week with him at quarterback, and I'm sure we'll be ready to go by the time the game comes around."Roethlisberger will be there in Leftwich's ear offering assistance when necessary, just as Leftwich has done for him through the years."He can make every throw on the football field," Roethlisberger said. "He's going to do just as good if not better."------NOTES:DE Brett Keisel (shoulder), LT Max Starks (ankle), S Troy Polamalu (calf), RT Marcus Gilbert (ankle), WR Antonio Brown (ankle) LB Chris Carter (abdomen) and Roethlisberger did not practice on Wednesday ... S Ryan Clark was limited in practice after sustaining a concussion against the Chiefs. Clark will meet with team doctors on Thursday for further evaluation.
ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.
There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.
First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.
“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”
The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.
Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.
-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.
-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.
-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.
Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.
-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.
-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.
-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.
-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.
-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.
ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing and Calvin Johnson go way back. The Raiders offensive coordinator got to know the retired Detroit receiver during four seasons coaching Lions quarterbacks, a relationship benefitted current Silver and Black receivers this week.
Johnson is in Alameda as a special guest and advisor for the first week of Raiders OTAs, offering tips and tricks learned during an excellent career.
“(Downing) thought it’d be a great idea for our wide receivers to just pick his brain and have him be around and give us a point here or there,” Del Rio said. “Talk about some of the things that he did so well in his career and how we might be able to have some of our guys learn from that. It’s great to have him out here.”
Amari Cooper gravitated towards Johnson, and has spent significant time picking his brain
“I’ve just been asking him a whole bunch of questions,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “How does he run certain routes? What was his regimen like? And how he was so productive? He’s a really cool guy. He’s been giving me some really great feedback, so he’s nice to have around.”
Johnson’s a unique talent, a difficult cover at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. Cooper operates in a smaller frame and has different receiving strengths, but still found wisdom in working with Megatron.
“He just gave me some really good tips on like how I can run some of my routes,” Cooper said. “…he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously. But I really admire the way he high-points the ball and that’s something that I try to do as well.”
Cooper does most everything well, and has had a productive start to his NFL career. He’s just the third receiver in NFL history to exceed 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – Odell Beckham and Marques Colston are the others – and made the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.
He continues to tinker with his approach and offseason workouts, trying to finish seasons stronger and become an even more dynamic player. Cooper has no problem learning from others, especially the greats.
“I seek advice all the time,” Cooper said. “My rookie year, when I was fortunate enough to go to the Pro Bowl, I asked Adrian Peterson like when did he start working out, how did he go about his offseason. And I tried to pattern after him a little bit.”
Cooper is smarter and working better thanks to information absorbed from others, which he hopes will help him become a deadly weapon.
“I know he’s just scratching the surface of what he wants to accomplish in this league,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Very prideful. Amari has always been very serious about the game and works hard at everything, really. His conditioning level and understanding what he needs to be able to do to play at a high level. Again, talking and having a guy like Calvin here as we’re getting started in these OTAs, to be able to share some of the insight of what he experienced playing that position is very valuable for us.”