Ben Roethlisberger's ribs are only bruised, but Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher listed the rookie quarterback as questionable for Sunday's regular-season finale at Buffalo...

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PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger’s ribs are only bruised, but Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher listed the rookie quarterback as questionable for Sunday’s regular-season finale at Buffalo.

The game is meaningless for the Steelers, who have won a franchise-record 13 straight games and clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs in the AFC.

The Bills are riding a six-game win streak that has put them in position to earn a playoff berth after an 0-4 start. Buffalo needs to beat the Steelers and have either the New York Jets or Denver Broncos lose in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Cowher said his plans for the game would not change even if another playoff berth were not dependent on the outcome.

“This is not about what we owe anybody,” he said. “It’s what we owe ourselves. This is how you play the game.”

Roethlisberger was hurt Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens when he was driven into the turf by Terrell Suggs just after throwing a third-quarter touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman.

Cornerback Deshea Townsend has been ruled out of the Buffalo game with broken bones in his hand.

Listed as doubtful for Sunday are running back Jerome Bettis (ankle) and outside linebacker Clark Haggans (groin). Running back Duce Staley (hamstring) and inside linebacker Kendrell Bell (groin) are questionable.

Cowher hopes Staley can start and allow Bettis to rest, even though Bettis is just 59 yards shy of what would be his ninth 1,000-yard season.

“I’m not looking at records or looking to appease any of that,” Cowher said. “We’ve got to do what’s in the best interests of this football team as we prepare our quest for what everybody wants, and that’s a championship.”

‘Monday Night’ ratings hit new low

Ratings for “Monday Night Football” fell 4 percent to the lowest in 35 seasons for one of ABC’s showcase programs.

The 17 weekly telecasts were watched in an average of 11 percent of the 109.6 million U.S. homes with television sets, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. Last year’s average rating was 11.5, up from the previous low of 11.4 in 2002. The high rating for the series was 21.7 in 1981.

“Monday Night Football” has been among the top 10 prime- time shows for 15 years. It was seventh this season entering this week’s game, a 20-7 victory by St. Louis over Philadelphia that drew a 10.6 rating — the highest for any show Monday night in all demographics and age groups, Nielsen said.

ABC has lost about $150 million a year on its $550 million average annual rights fee for MNF in a deal that expires after the 2005 season. A new rights contract will be negotiated next year. While ABC officials have had preliminary conversations with the NFL, it remains unclear whether the network will retain the show.


* Dallas Cowboys S Darren Woodson will retire at the end of the season, The Dallas Morning News reported. Also, the Cowboys put RB Richie Anderson on injured reserve with a pinched nerve in his neck and released OL Matt Lehr.

* Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair underwent surgery to strengthen his bruised chest, which has plagued him most of the season. The surgery involved taking a piece of bone from McNair’s right hip and inserting it into an area of cartilage that exists in the sternum.

Doctors said they believe the insertion of bone will promote bone growth to replace the cartilage. McNair is expected to be out at least six weeks before being allowed to lift weights as part of a strengthening and conditioning program.

* The Broncos placed RB Garrison Hearst on IR with a broken left hand.

* Advertisements during the 2005 Super Bowl, Feb. 6 on Fox, will cost an average of $2.4 million, 6.7 percent more than last season.