The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't taking any chances with their franchise quarterback's sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib.

Though the Steelers confirmed Ben Roethlisberger will return to the starting lineup Sunday against San Diego after missing three weeks due to injury, Roethlisberger will take the field with a little extra protection.

He'll play with a custom fit rib/chest compression shirt and a layer of Kevlar-lined composite in his shoulder pads to help absorb hits to his clavicle and shoulder joint regions.

The padding, made by Unequal Technologies, has grown popular across the NFL. Dozens of players -- including Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison -- use Unequal CRT in their helmets.

The padding -- about a half-inch thick-- in Roethlisberger's shoulder pads is similar to the gear the company puts in its chest protectors for baseball catchers.

Roethlisberger took "90 percent" of the first-team snaps Thursday without any major issues.

"He looks like himself for the most part," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "Now I don't know what he's feeling when he's doing some of those things. But it looks like he's moving around pretty good."

Roethlisberger said he felt "good" but declined to expand.

The Steelers went 1-2 in his absence.

Vikings: A decision to place Percy Harvin on season-ending injured reserve, coach Leslie Frazier said, was based "purely" on his slow-healing sprained left ankle and not any issue with a uniquely valuable player who has had clashes with the team.


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Frazier declined to be more specific about the injury, which occurred during the Nov. 4 game at Seattle. Harvin hasn't been available to reporters for two weeks. "It certainly is disappointing that I was not able to finish out this season with my teammates, but my injury has just not allowed me to progress to the point where I can help our team," he said in a statement distributed by the team.

Bears: Linebacker Brian Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune that the NFL fined him $21,000 for his horse-collar tackle on Seattle's Leon Washington during an overtime loss Sunday. It was the second straight week Urlacher was fined for such a tackle. He received a $15,750 fine for one against Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Urlacher suffered hamstring strain against the Seahawks and could miss the rest of the regular season.

Bills: Offensive lineman Chris Hairston was placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season with a bone injury in his right ankle, coach Chan Gailey said.

Jets: Backup quarterback Tim Tebow was limited for the second straight day with two broken ribs and might not be able to play against Jacksonville on Sunday. "I'm still not ready to say I'm comfortable with him (playing) right now," coach Rex Ryan said.

Giants: Veteran tackle David Diehl is back in the starting lineup, except it wasn't the way he wanted. He was thrust back into the front line in the fourth quarter of Monday's 17-16 loss to Washington when Sean Locklear suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season.

"I'm just excited to get out there and play football," said Diehl, who'll start Sunday against New Orleans.

Chiefs: Peyton Hillis lashed back at former teammate Joe Thomas, comparing the Cleveland tackle to a "crazy ex-girlfriend" after he made disparaging comments about the Kansas City running back. Thomas told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday that Hillis didn't always play hard during his time with the Browns.

He also accused Hillis of creating a "toxic" environment in the locker room by putting his contract situation ahead of the team. "Joe Thomas, he can have his opinions all he wants," Hillis said. "It's kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It's been over a year. Get over it."

  • The slain girlfriend of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher was a loyal friend who brought joy to others, a relative said at a memorial service for the woman.

    Belcher fatally shot 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins on Saturday at the Kansas City home they shared with their 3-month-old daughter. He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, where coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive assistant Gary Gibbs witnessed Belcher commit suicide.

    Perkins was from Texas, and about 200 mourners, including Chiefs team chairman Clark Hunt, gathered at a church in Blue Ridge to remember her. Another service will be held Saturday in Austin, where Perkins' father lives.

    MCT Information Services contributed to this report.