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Big Ben trying to get ready for Sunday

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is trying to get ready to play Sunday against the Chargers, which would provide a major boost for a team in the thick of a playoff hunt.

This isn't to diminish the surprisingly strong effort by backup Charlie Batch on Sunday. The Steelers are simply a better offense, and a more consistent one, with Roethlisberger under center.

The knee-jerk reaction from Sunday is not to rush back Roethlisberger because Batch demonstrated that he could win games, even one in a hostile environment like Baltimore. But Roethlisberger won't come back before he's ready. He's learned from last year when he played injured in San Francisco and hurt the Steelers. There's more trust in Roethlisberger that he'll make the right decision on when to return.

Roethlisberger's return would be timely. There's little margin for error for the Steelers these days. They're tied for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with the Bengals, who have won four straight. A lot will be riding on the Steelers-Bengals game on Dec. 23, but that's only if the Steelers beat the Chargers and Cowboys over the next two weeks.

Roethlisberger has been working to improve his strength and range of motion as the soreness in his shoulder and chest have diminished, a source told ESPN's Ed Werder. How Roethlisberger practices Wednesday and Thursday will ultimately determine whether he plays against San Diego.

While there is more confidence that Batch can get the job done now, there is still a level of uncertainty. You don't know if you're going to get the Batch who threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter in Cleveland or the one who led the fourth-quarter comeback in Baltimore.

If Roethlisberger can come back Sunday, the Steelers' grip on that final playoff spot would get stronger.