PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice on Wednesday and appears on track to return this weekend against San Diego.

Roethlisberger hasn’t played since spraining his right shoulder and dislocating a rib in a 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Nov. 12. He was limited in practice, but coach Mike Tomlin said he was encouraged by Roethlisberger’s performance.

Tomlin called it a “positive” day for his franchise quarterback but isn’t quite ready to say Roethlisberger is ready to start against the reeling Chargers (4-8). Roethlisberger will throw again Thursday, and barring any setbacks, he likely will be back in the lineup as Pittsburgh (7-5) tries to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

The Steelers went 1-2 in Roethlisberger’s absence, though the victory came in a rousing 23-20 win at rival Baltimore last Sunday behind veteran backup Charlie Batch.


Sanchez keeps job as starter: In Florham Park, N.J., Jets coach Rex Ryan is sticking with Mark Sanchez as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.

The coach announced Wednesday that Sanchez, benched last Sunday against Arizona, will get the start this week over Greg McElroy and Tim Tebow when the Jets play the Jaguars at Jacksonville.

“I have to get this decision right,” Ryan said, “and I believe I have.”

Sanchez was pulled late in the third quarter, and McElroy came in and led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive and helped New York to a 7-6 victory. Sanchez was 10-of-21 for 97 yards with three interceptions, while McElroy was 5-of-7 for 29 yards and the score, and appeared to spark the team.


Players attend Belcher memorial service: In Kansas City, Mo., several players for the Kansas City Chiefs attended a memorial service for teammate Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend and then fatally shot himself in the head.

Belcher killed 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins on Saturday at the home they shared in Kansas City with their 3-month-old daughter. He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, where he killed himself in front of team officials, who pleaded with him to put down his gun.

Retired Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell said after the private hour-long service that General Manager Scott Pioli, who witnessed Belcher’s suicide, spoke during the service. Bell said an uncle of Belcher also spoke.

Several other Chiefs players declined comment after the service.


Browner drops appeal, will serve suspension: In Renton, Wash., Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner dropped the appeal of his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances and will miss the final four games of the regular season, the league announced Wednesday.

Browner’s loss leaves the Seahawks without a Pro Bowl cornerback whose size and physical play has flustered wide receivers for much of the past two seasons.

Browner will be eligible to rejoin the team on Dec. 31 and will be able to play in the postseason should the Seahawks make the playoffs.

Browner has 44 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed this season.


Woodson practices, McCarthy says return ‘close’: In Green Bay, Wis., Charles Woodson was back at practice on a limited basis Wednesday, and Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the defensive back’s return from a broken collarbone is “getting close.”

Woodson has missed the past five games after breaking his collarbone against St. Louis. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday that the perennial Pro Bowler had been running routes again.


LINEMAN HUTCHINSON ON IR: In Nashville, Tenn., the Tennessee Titans placed veteran guard Steve Hutchinson on injured reserve because of an injured right knee and claimed guard Mitch Petrus off waivers from New England on Wednesday.

Hutchinson hurt his knee Sunday in a 24-10 loss to Houston and will have surgery Thursday. He is the fourth of Tennessee’s five starting offensive linemen at the start of training camp placed on injured reserve. Only left tackle Michael Roos is still active. Roos did not practice Wednesday because of his own sore right knee.


Owens to handle running workload: In Jacksonville, Fla., the Jaguars are so banged up at running back that they’re turning things over to their special teams ace.

With Maurice Jones-Drew, Jalen Parmele and Rashad Jennings injured, the Jaguars (2-10) are giving fourth-team running back Montell Owens the start Sunday against the New York Jets (5-7).

Owens is a two-time Pro Bowler, but earned both trips with his special teams play. He ran seven times for 29 yards last week at Buffalo, giving him 21 carries for 112 yards in his seven-year career.