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Originally published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:06 PM

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Roethlisberger's rib injury threatens aorta

Right arm tucked into a black sling, weary eyes betraying a decided lack of sleep, Ben Roethlisberger tried to stay positive after the worst...

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PITTSBURGH — 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.

All Roethlisberger knows for certain is that doctors are concerned the rib — which he injured while getting sacked by two 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 Steelers (6-3) try to track down AFC North-leading Baltimore (7-2). The rivals meet twice over the next three weeks. Veteran backup Byron Leftwich will be looking for his first win as a starter in six years.

Notes

• San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, has passed concussion tests this week and is on track to start Monday night against the Chicago Bears, ESPN.com reported.

Nick Foles sounded every bit like the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who will make his first career start Sunday at Washington, not an injured Michael Vick. Foles worked with the first team as Vick recovers from a significant concussion.

• Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith kept tight wraps on quarterback Jay Cutler's progress on his return from a concussion. Cutler did not practice but might get on the field Thursday.

• Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins was fined $30,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Cutler.

• A report surfaced during the weekend that lame-duck Cleveland Browns president and former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren would be interested in coaching the Dallas Cowboys. Holmgren tried to shoot down those rumors, saying, "I haven't booked my tickets to Dallas."

• Dallas running back DeMarco Murray (foot) said there was "a chance" he could play Sunday against Cleveland.

• Buffalo Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay (neck) will miss his second straight game.

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 after a concussion.

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