PITTSBURGH (AP) -Ben Roethlisberger watched injury after injury befall quarterbacks across the NFL on the first weekend of the season and felt fortunate to still be standing.
One game down, 15 to go.
Roethlisberger came out of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 38-17 victory over Houston with a near-perfect passer rating and sore throwing shoulder that kept him out of practice one day, though he returned to the field Thursday. He sees no reason he won't play Sunday night in Cleveland against the home-state team that snubbed him in the draft four years ago.
Considering the Week 1 injuries to Tom Brady, Vince Young, Brodie Croyle, Alex Smith (in practice, no less) and Jeff Garcia, Roethlisberger is glad to have gotten out of the opener with only an aching arm and shoulder.
that (so many key injuries) in Week 1.''
Neither did Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who called the numerous injuries ``sobering - it reminds you of the (physical) nature of the game.''
Roethlisberger got a scare when Texans defensive lineman Mario Williams sacked him late in the second quarter, landing atop the quarterback's throwing arm and causing a fumble. Roethlisberger played the third quarter, but spent most of it handing the ball off.
``That's a big man,'' Roethlisberger said. ``He about broke my arm. I really thought he snapped my arm. My arm was still attached to the football and he was holding my arm.''
One scary play aside, Roethlisberger was 13-of-14 for 138 yards and two touchdowns - he didn't need to throw any deep passes as the Steelers quickly jumped out to a 21-0 lead - and he also ran 17 yards for a key first down.
It was exactly the kind of well-executed game that has enabled Roethlisberger to win 40 of his first 56 NFL starts. This week, he goes against a depleted Cleveland secondary that will be missing safety Sean Jones (knee cartilage) - the 18th Browns player to miss significant time since camp started. The other starting safety, Mike Pool, has been out a month with a concussion.
The Browns currently have only one 2007 secondary starter, cornerback Eric Wright, in their lineup. The other cornerback, Brandon McDonald, was a 2007 fifth-round pick.
With the Browns' defense so short-handed, it's likely the Steelers will throw the ball much more than they did against Houston, which gave up 138 yards rushing and three touchdowns to Willie Parker.
``Definitely, we'd like to exploit that,'' wide receiver Hines Ward. ``They really don't have much experience. But it depends on how the game goes. We still have Willie Parker and we're not going to change our identity. We're not going to come out and start slinging the ball everywhere.''
Even if Roethlisberger wouldn't mind doing that. He grew up in Findlay, Ohio, and played at Miami (Ohio), and hasn't forgotten that the Browns bypassed him in the 2004 draft. They chose tight end Kellen Winslow at No. 6, and the Steelers took Roethlisberger five picks later.
``My friends won't let me live it down if I don't win in that state,'' Roethlisberger said. ``It's just something about going home and trying to win at home. It's a little something added for Cleveland because I think they had a pick higher than No. 11 when I was drafted.''
Roethlisberger is 7-0 against the Browns - he sat out a 2005 game while injured - and is 9-0 in NFL games played in Ohio.
No wonder Cleveland's Dawg Pound, which dislikes the Steelers like no other group of fans, gives Roethlisberger such a hard time.
``Whenever opposing fans get on you, it's usually because you like to trash talk or because you're a good player,'' he said. ``I hear mixed things from the Pound, not that I really pay much attention to it, but I'll look up and see somebody I went to high school with or something. It's kind of funny. But I'm not too intimidated by it.''

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