EDs: UPDATES with Smith needing surgery.
AP Photo MOJR111
PITTSBURGH (AP) -Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't practice with the starting offense for the second day in a row Thursday and is all but certain to miss the team's final regular-season game Sunday in Baltimore.
The Steelers, already playing without key starters Willie Parker and Aaron Smith, got further bad injury news - left tackle Marvel Smith needed back surgery Thursday and won't play against Baltimore or in a first-round playoff game next weekend.
Marvel Smith has sat out three of the last five games because of recurring lower back pain, with former starting right tackle Max Starks replacing him. Earlier this week, coach Mike Tomlin said he wasn't optimistic Smith would be available during the playoffs.
With the Steelers (10-5) already assured of playing a home playoff game Jan. 5 or 6, it appears unlikely Tomlin will risk Roethlisberger aggravating the right ankle sprain that occurred late in the team's 41-24 win at St. Louis on Dec. 20.
Charlie Batch took the snaps with the starters and is expected to start at quarterback for the fourth time in the last three seasons. He was 2-0 in 2005 and 1-0 last season, but hasn't started since the 2006 opener against Miami - when Roethlisberger sat out after having his appendix removed four days before.
Roethlisberger has started the last 30 Steelers games and, before getting hurt, was in position to start all 16 regular season games for the first time in his four-season career.
Earlier Thursday, Roethlisberger was chosen as the AFC offensive player of the week for going 16-of-20 for 261 yards and three touchdowns against St. Louis. He also had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the second time this season.
Parker, the NFL's rushing leader at the time, broke his right leg on his first carry against St. Louis and was lost for the rest of the season. Aaron Smith, one of the Steelers' primary run defenders, was hurt Dec. 9 against New England and is also on the injured reserve list.
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