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This week's unfolding saga of Ben Roethlisberger's availability is most curious. After suffering a concussion in overtime of a loss at Kansas City, the Steelers quarterback was medically cleared almost immediately for Sunday night's game in Baltimore.

He then practiced fully -- according to the Steelers' injury reports -- all week. And on Saturday, it was determined, presumably at some high level, that Roethlisberger would not start against the Ravens. In fact, he'll be the emergency quarterback and would play only if Dennis Dixon and Tyler Palko become disabled or there is a coaching change that would prevent either Dixon or Palko from returning.

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Keeping Roethlisberger out is the prudent thing to do for a player with his history of concussion (at least four with the Steelers). But how the Steelers arrived at this point is almost bizarre, especially faced with a must-win situation in a hostile environment. Concussions have been a major theme of the NFL season to date and the league has been monitoring head injuries closely.

Going from Roethlisberger to Dixon, who has thrown one pass in the NFL, presents quite a dropoff. Losing Charlie Batch to wrist surgery after the KC game leaves the Steelers with no experience at the game's most important position. Palko was signed only this week to the practice squad, but will serve as the backup quarterback.

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It would be a delicious subplot if Palko gets into the game. He was Dave Wannstedt's quarterback of choice at the University of Pittsburgh when Joe Flacco went there. Flacco saw the writing on the wall -- that he wasn't going to play -- and left for Delaware. Now Flacco is the established NFL quarterback and Palko is some guy trying to hold a job.

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