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Steelers CB Ike Taylor out with ankle injury

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Steelers CB Ike Taylor out with ankle injury

PITTSBURGH (AP) There have been very few constants in Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's six years on the job.

The sight of Ike Taylor in his No. 24 uniform has been one of them.

Until now.

The veteran cornerback will miss at least two weeks with a fractured right ankle, meaning his streak of playing in 135 consecutive games will end on Sunday when the Steelers (7-5) host reeling San Diego (4-8).

``You can say a lot of things about Ike, and a lot of positive things, but probably the thing that sticks out the most is his durability and availability,'' Tomlin said. ``This guy hasn't missed practices, let alone football games, since I've been here.''

The 32-year-old Taylor has spent the last seven-plus seasons serving as an anchor on one side of the field. It's not a coincidence Pittsburgh has ranked in the top 10 in total defense each year and is No. 1 overall and in passing yards allowed yet again.

Though Taylor doesn't need surgery, the Steelers will have to rely on second-year reserves Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown against San Diego and Dallas, both of which have two of the more physical receiving corps in the leagues.

It's a task, however, Allen and Brown appeared to be up to while playing extensively last week against Baltimore after Taylor went down. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed just 16 of 34 passes for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Steelers revived their playoff hopes following the franchise's first two-game losing streak in three years.

To keep it going Pittsburgh will now rely a pair of 2011 draft picks to ease the pain from Taylor's absence. Tomlin likened Allen and Brown to third-year wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. The duo were taken in the 2010 draft and have quickly evolved into key contributors.

Tomlin figures it's time for the two cornerbacks to do the same.

``They're both talented young guys who are continuing to improve and prove that the stage isn't too big for them,'' Tomlin said. ``Obviously, we need them to answer the bell as we continue to push into a territory that we haven't been in.''

While one familiar face will be out of the lineup, another one could return. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will practice this week with a chance to return since going down with a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib in a 16-13 overtime win over Kansas City on Nov. 12.

Roethlisberger threw on Monday, though Tomlin stressed that at the moment backup Charlie Batch is ``our guy.''

Batch, who turns 38 on Wednesday, passed for 276 yards and led the Steelers to a pair of late scoring drives in Baltimore. Tomlin, however, stressed the decision on Roethlisberger's availability rests solely on the quarterback's health, not Batch's ability to channel the fountain of youth.

``Ben is our quarterback and if he's capable of playing then we're going to play him,'' Tomlin said. ``But we appreciate the efforts of Charlie and all the other men that step up when given an opportunity due to injury.''

Roethlisberger said last week arm strength and pain have been major concerns during his rehab. He appears to have made progress on both fronts in the last week.

``Seven days does wonders for injuries,'' Tomlin said.

So does the prospect of playing significant games in December. Tomlin allowed the victory in Baltimore is among the most significant of the last two seasons, so much so he was in a rush to get to the locker room afterward, one of the reasons the postgame handshake between Tomlin and Ravens coach John Harbaugh appeared strained.

``It took special effort to secure that victory and when I noticed that guys were headed to the locker room I was in a hurry to get there,'' Tomlin said.

And Tomlin is in a hurry to get back to work, though he's not trying to read too much into similarities between the team's position now and the one it was in seven years ago, when the Steelers won their final four regular season games then added four playoff wins to capture their fifth Super Bowl.

``I do think our team has some unique characteristics that are kind of born out of unique circumstances or situations,'' he said. ``Quite frankly, it's always 20-20 looking back at it. If we're able to put together a run and win necessary games and get some momentum, then you can say it was unique.

``If we don't, then you can say it was irrelevant.''

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NOTES: LB LaMarr Woodley will test his injured ankle this week and could play after missing the Ravens game ... WR Jerricho Cotchery's fractured ribs have healed enough that he has a shot to return against San Diego ... Tomlin said he's encouraged by the way S Troy Polamalu played against the Ravens in his first game in nearly two months and could see a heavier workload on Sunday.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Rare spinal conditon forced Zach Orr to retire

Rare spinal conditon forced Zach Orr to retire

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens inside linebacker Zach Orr had no choice but to retire, after a physical examination detected a spinal condition that made it extremely dangerous for him to continue his career.

“I have a condition that I was born with,” Orr said Friday, making his formal retirement announcement during a press conference. “I’m forced to walk away from the game of football.”

Orr said a CAT scan revealed a rare congenital abnormality, and that the top of his spinal column had never fully developed. Orr was never aware of his issue until he suffered a shoulder injury against the Steelers on Christmas that led to further testing.

While Orr never imagined he would retire at age 24, he felt blessed to be leaving the game before his condition led to a catastrophic injury. Orr has been playing football with his spinal condition since he was nine years old, and said doctors could not explain how he had played so long without his issue being detected.

“When I first found out the news, it was shocking,” Orr said. “Football is something I’ve done my whole life.”

Orr said retirement was his only option, because he would never pass an NFL physical. He also said that reports the Ravens tried to talk him out of retirement were inaccurate.

“They’ve supported me through this,” said Orr, who added that one of his high school teammates was paralyzed playing football.

Orr kept his composure during the press conference, but admitted he took the news hard at first. One of those emotional moments came after a telephone conversation with recently retired wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

“I broke down a couple of times, as recent as a couple of days ago,” Orr said.

Three of Orr’s teammates attended Friday’s press conference – linebackers C. J. Mosley and Albert McClellan, and safety Eric Weddle. General manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, and linebackers coach Don Martindale were also in attendance. Orr is one of the most popular and respected players in the locker room. An undrafted free agent in 2014, Orr made the team as a special teams standout and earned a starting job for the first time this season. He led the Ravens in tackles (130), finishing 10th in the NFL in that department.

Orr had a bright future as a player. Now, that future will head in another direction.

“Instead of asking – ‘Why me?, ask ‘What’s next?’” Orr said.

“I’m very proud that he’s been a Raven,” said Harbaugh. “I can’t wait to see what the next door holds.”

Related: Ravens name their new offensive line coach

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Ravens linebacker Zach Orr to retire due to shoulder injury

Ravens linebacker Zach Orr to retire due to shoulder injury

Ravens starting inside linebacker Zach Orr has decided to retire due to a serious shoulder injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Only 24 years old, Orr led the Ravens in tackles last season after winning a starting job for the first time, and his career was trending upward. Losing Orr, an undrafted free agent from North Texas, leaves the Ravens with another void to fill after a disappointing 8-8 season.

The Ravens scheduled an 11 a.m. press conference Friday in which further details on Orr’s retirement were expected.

Orr played in all but one game last season, but sat out the season finale with what was termed a neck injury. He is one of the team’s most popular players in the locker room, working his way from undrafted free agent, to special teams standout, to starter.

Related: Steve Smith addresses coaching rumors