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Steelers historically struggle when Ben Roethlisberger returns from injuries

Ben Roethlisberger has missed four games at Baltimore in his career, but it doesn’t look like Sunday’s game will be his fifth.

Roethlisberger practiced this week less than three weeks after having surgery on his torn meniscus, and at this point it would be stunning if he doesn’t start against the Ravens (3-4).

The Steelers (4-3) are trying to stay in first place in the AFC North. If they lose, they’d be tied with the Ravens atop the division with the Ravens holding the tiebreaker at least until the teams meet again on Christmas.

Roethlisberger’s imminent return is good news for the Steelers. He gives them a better chance to win than Landry Jones.

But can he change the course of history?

In Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers are 2-5 in his first game back from an injury. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in those games.

Here’s a look at these not-so-memorable performances.

2015, Week 8

Bengals 16, Steelers 10

Roethlisberger missed four games with a knee injury and returned to throw three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter, as the Steelers dropped to 4-4 with a home loss to the Bengals. Roethlisberger completed 28 of 45 passes for 262 yards and one touchdown.

Reggie Nelson intercepted Roethlisberger twice. Three years earlier, Nelson intercepted Roethlisberger in the final minute of a Week 16 game to set up the Bengals’ game-winning field goal in a game that knocked the Steelers out of playoff contention.

After Roethlisberger’s lackluster return last season, the Steelers went 6-2 the rest of the way and made the playoffs. They didn’t fare so well after Roethlisberger missed time in 2012.

2012, Week 14

Chargers 34, Steelers 24

Roethlisberger missed three games with a rib injury, and the Steelers lost the first two. They appeared to right the ship when Charlie Batch led them to an upset win at Baltimore, and they entered this home game against the Chargers with a 7-5 record.

That win in Baltimore, and iconic embrace between Roethlisberger and Batch as Shaun Suisham‘s game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights, was as good as it would get for the Steelers in 2012. Against the Chargers, Roethlisberger completed just 22 of 42 passes with three touchdowns and an interception. Two of those touchdowns came in the final six minutes as the Steelers made a 34-10 score look more respectable.

The Steelers also lost their next two games, the second loss being the aforementioned 13-10 decision against the Bengals, and missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

2011, Week 17

Steelers 13, Browns 9

Roethlisberger suffered a high-ankle sprain in a Week 14 win over the Browns and played on it 11 days later in San Francisco. The Chargers upset the Ravens the previous night. Had the Steelers beaten the 49ers, they’d have been in position to win the division and avoid facing Tim Tebow at Denver in the playoffs. But Roethlisberger threw three interceptions in a 20-3 loss.

Roethlisberger sat out the Steelers’ Week 16 home game against the Rams, a 27-0 win, and returned for the regular-season finale at Cleveland. He completed 23 of 40 passes for 211 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions as the Steelers barely held on to beat the 4-12 Browns. Roethlisberger completed only 22 of 40 passes with a touchdown and a pick in the infamous playoff loss at Denver the following week.

2009, Week 13

Raiders 27, Steelers 24

Roethlisberger didn’t have a bad game after returning from a concussion he suffered at Kansas City two weeks earlier. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

But Bruce Gradkowski, Roethlisberger’s future backup, threw three touchdown passes without a pick at Heinz Field as the Raiders dealt the Steelers their fourth straight loss.

The Steelers suffered their fifth straight loss four days later at Cleveland. They won their final three games to finish 9-7, but they couldn’t undo the damage of that five-game skid and missed the playoffs a year after winning Super Bowl XLIII.

2006, Week 2

Jaguars 9, Steelers 0

Roethlisberger had an eventful offseason after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. He nearly lost his life in a motorcycle crash in June and missed the season opener after having his appendix removed.

It shouldn’t have been totally surprising, then, that the third season of Roethlisberger’s career was his worst. He threw 23 interceptions, the most in the league. It all started in Jacksonville when he threw two of those interceptions. He completd 17 of 32 passes for 141 yards with no touchdowns. In the first of their two feeble title defenses in Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers started the season 2-6 before rebounding in the second half of the season and finishing 8-8.

2005, Week 12

Colts 26, Steelers 7

Roethlisberger had missed three games with a knee injury and returned to complete 17 of 26 passes for 133 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a Monday night game at Indianapolis.

The Steelers got their revenge against the Colts in the playoffs that year.

2005, Week 7

Steelers 27, Bengals 13

After sitting out one game with a knee injury, Roethlisberger completed nine of 14 passes at Cincinnati for 93 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and one interception.

This was the first of three games in which Roethlisberger returned from an injury against an AFC North opponent. The Steelers are 2-1 in those games. Perhaps that bodes well for Sunday’s game at Baltimore.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

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