Big Ben to start vs. AFC North-leading Bengals

Updated: October 18, 2005, 6:32 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

A big game for the Pittsburgh Steelers means, of course, Big Ben for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
86 52 868 7 0 123.8

After sitting out the overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars with a bruised and hyperextended left knee last weekend, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will start Sunday when the Steelers travel to Cincinnati for an important AFC North matchup with the upstart and division-leading Bengals.

For the second time in his brief career, Roethlisberger will bump Tommy Maddox from the lineup. Maddox started last week in place of the injured Roethlisberger and completed 11 of 28 passes for 154 yards, with three interceptions and just one touchdown pass. The veteran fumbled away a field goal opportunity early in overtime and then, one series later, threw an interception that Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis returned 41 yards for a touchdown.

It was only the 15th game-ending interception in overtime history.

Maddox apparently injured his right shoulder in the game. After the game, coach Bill Cowher acknowledged he nearly replaced the struggling quarterback with Charlie Batch, No. 3 on the depth chart. If Maddox's shoulder does not improve during the week, he could be the third quarterback at Cincinnati, with Batch moving up to the No. 2 spot.

The resurgent Bengals lead the division with a 5-1 record. The 3-2 Steelers are second. The game will be the first meeting between the franchises since November '90 in which both teams come in with winning records. Roethlisberger, whose knee began to feel better late last week and who lobbied Cowher to allow him to play, will encounter a Cincinnati defense that has been opportunistic this season.

Pittsburgh has won a league best nine straight road games dating back to last season and Roethlisberger, who is 17-2 as the Steelers' starter counting playoff games, has never lost a road start. In fact, the only team to which Roethisberger has lost is New England, in last year's AFC championship game, and earlier this season at Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger injured his left knee in the final minutes of a win Oct. 10 at San Diego when Chargers defensive lineman Luis Castillo rolled into the quarterback's plant leg. The injury originally appeared to be season-threatening, but an MRI exam the next morning showed no structural damage.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.