PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger is becoming the modern-day Roman Gabriel: a good quarterback when he's not being helped up off the ground.
The 31-year-old Roethlisberger has been sacked 375 times in his career and 31 times this season, which is second to Ryan Tannehill, who's been sacked 35 times (even though he's protected by bullies).
This Sunday, Roethlisberger will be up against the NFL's third-best pass rush. The Buffalo Bills have 29 sacks and are led by defensive end Mario Williams with 11 sacks. Williams will line up over Kelvin Beachum, a shaky proposition even when he's not injured and missing practice, as he was Wednesday.
Still, Roethlisberger just laughed at being called "the most sacked active quarterback in the NFL" by a Buffalo reporter.
"It is what it is. I feel good," ROethlisberger said. "I feel healthy and you’ve got to play every play like it’s your last."
Roethlisberger also has the second-best yards per attempt (7.9) of any active quarteback, but that won't do him much good when defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams add to their 8 combined sacks from the middle.
"They’ve got a great front seven and a good pass rush," Roethlisberger said. "We have to get the ball out, and if we have some play-action or some deeper passes, still kind of have that sense of urgency of getting rid of the ball."
SHARP YOUNG GM
The Bills have more than a talented defensive line. Their secondary is full of high-pedigreed players, and their middle linebacker, Kiko Alonso, is a Rookie of the Year Candidate.
On offense, the Bills have explosive young skill players, a solid nucleus of young linemen, and a rookie first-round quarterback, E.J.Manuel, who's learning as he goes.
The Bills might only be 3-6, but a take-off is expected soon. Much of the credit would go to GM Doug Whaley, who's been with the Bills since 2010 after leaving his job as pro personnel director for his hometown Steelers.
"Doug is a sharp football guy," said Mike Tomlin. "He was always highly professional, smart, willing to ask critical questions. I’m happy for him and his success up there."
Tomlin was asked if he "had an inkling he was on a path to be a GM?"
"Certainly," Tomlin said. "That was a goal of his, and not only that, his daily actions worked him towards that end. Usually guys in this business get what they deserve, and he obviously has done that."
Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas is coming off a season-high 8 tackles as the deep strong safety in the Steelers' quarters package. He played 33 snaps against the Patriots, up from his average of 25 per game.
His coach last year at Syracuse is now the Bills' head coach, Doug Marrone.
"He was outstanding for us," said Marrone. "Someone who has really overcome a lot of adversity in his life, and as far as a football player that’s what he is. I think that he represents what it means to play.
"I remember talking to him in his senior year and he had an injury to his shoulder; one that he could’ve continued playing with or could’ve gotten surgery. I remember when I brought him in and I knew that he had a future in the NFL. And when I spoke to him I said, 'Listen, I know you have a future in the NFL and I would understand, but I want to make sure you make a decision: Do you want to have surgery now or do you want to wait until after the season?' He said, “Coach, I’m finishing the season and we’re going to a Bowl.” I was like ‘Whoa.’"
NEWS & NOTES
As expected, ILB Sean Spence was placed on injured reserve Wednesday and will continue his comeback from knee and nerve damage next spring. ... Missing Wednesday's practice were CB Ike Taylor and ILB Vince Williams, who suffered concussions Sunday. ... LT Beachum, RT Marcus Gilbert and C Fernando Velasco were limited in practice because of injuries. ... G David DeCastro and WR Markus Wheaton returned to practice.