Steelers relieved by positive news

With the news surrounding Ben Roethlisberger's recovery mostly positive, don't look for the Steelers to be in the market for another QB.

Updated: June 15, 2006, 9:09 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The upbeat medical report Tuesday on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to be a relief to Bill Cowher and the Steelers front office.

Although no timetable was set by doctors, it looks like Roethlisberger should be back on the field in training camp. Despite undergoing seven hours of facial surgery after Monday's motorcycle accident, Roethlisberger didn't suffer major structural damage to his knees.

Ben Roethlisberger
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesBen Roethlisberger will face his former mentor early in the season.
Organizationally, the team has the luxury of waiting until he heals before it is forced to make a decision on whether to bring in another quarterback. For now, the Steelers have enough arms to get them through the beginning part of training camp.

Charlie Batch is the starting quarterback until Roethlisberger is healthy. Fifth-round choice Omar Jacobs and former Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford are on the roster. They have street free agent Shane Boyd available as a fourth arm.

The timetable for a player coming back from a broken jaw is around seven weeks. That would put Roethlisberger's recovery time into the first week of training camp. Though he could start camp on the team's NFI (non-football injury) list, he could be back on the practice field a week before the team's preseason opener against the Cardinals on Aug. 12.

Certainly, the Steelers won't play him that week. Starting quarterbacks rarely play more than 15 snaps in an opening preseason game anyway.

While the recovery time for a broken jaw is known, what is not known is whether the surgeries for other facial fractures will cause a further delay in his recovery. Doctors didn't give specifics on a timetable for his return to the field, and that was appropriate. Roethlisberger's long-term health has to be taken care of first.

The Steelers, as an organization, are in vacation mode until the start of training camp. They had their last organized practice session last Thursday. Roethlisberger and the Steelers don't have football duties on their agenda until the start of training camp. But they will have to have discussions about the quarterback position. While in town to visit Roethlisberger, Cowher, who had been in North Carolina, will sit down with the personnel office and map out plans for the quarterback position over the next two months.

One option would be to bring in former backup quarterback Tommy Maddox. But the Steelers have no reason to rush to sign Maddox or any other veteran. They have $2.7 million in cap room remaining, enough to sign their draft choices. But adding a veteran quarterback would force them to adjust a contract or two on the current roster. Ideally they'll be able to get by without signing another quarterback.

The team sensed within two hours of the accident that Roethlisberger's injuries -- though serious -- weren't going to cost him the season or all of training camp. They heard good reports about Roethlisberger's condition before his surgery and were confident he didn't suffer major knee injuries.

Had the reports been worse, the Steelers would have had to start seriously thinking about Maddox, Jay Fiedler or maybe even Kerry Collins. While Batch knows the offense, the Steelers would need another quarterback if Reothlisberger were to miss more time. The Steelers like Jacobs, but realistically he's more of a third quarterback than a backup right now.

If Roethlisberger had ended up being lost for the season, Collins would have been the best option in terms of talent. But he would be costly and hurt the team's salary cap. Collins turned down $3 million this year to go to Miami.

The Steelers could have saved $655,000 against the cap if they decided not to pay Roethlisberger. They also would have had the option of going after some signing bonus money. But the Steelers don't care about money. They just want a healthy Roethlisberger, and the organization has been greatly relieved with the positive news coming from doctors.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer