PITTSBURGH -- What doesn't look questionable about the
Pittsburgh Steelers' injury-complicated quarterback situation is
coach Bill Cowher's decision to keep not one, but two proven
backups behind Ben Roethlisberger.
Cowher said Tuesday he won't know until later in the week
whether Roethlisberger can play in Sunday's game at Baltimore.
Roethlisberger, who is listed as questionable, has missed two games
since having knee surgery Nov. 3.
If he can't play -- and the Steelers are hopeful he can -- then
Tommy Maddox will be their third starting QB in four games.
"There is no defined starter right now," Cowher said.
Charlie Batch started and won the last two games in his first
extended playing time in four years, but will sit out at least one
game after breaking a bone in his right hand during a 34-21 victory
over Cleveland on Sunday night. Batch played about as well as a
backup can during the first half, completing 13 of 19 passes for
150 yards and breaking off a 15-yard run.
The Steelers want Roethlisberger to play against the Ravens
(2-7) not only because he gives them the best chance of winning,
but so he can get back to game speed before pivotal games against
the Indianapolis Colts (9-0) on Nov. 28 and division rival
Cincinnati (7-2) on Dec. 4. Roethlisberger hasn't played since a
20-19 victory over Baltimore on Oct. 31, undergoing arthroscopic
surgery to clean up damaged cartilage in his right knee three days
The Steelers won't rush him back and possibly jeopardize his
status for the final six weeks of the season.
Roethlisberger underwent therapy and threw some passes Tuesday,
normally the players' day off. But Cowher wants to see if he can
throw passes without being in pain and has full range of motion in
his right knee. The team starts practicing for the Ravens on
"I can't give a long-term diagnosis," Cowher said. "We'll
assess it day to day."
Linebacker James Farrior (knee), left tackle Marvel Smith
(ankle) and running back Willie Parker (ankle) also are
questionable. Farrior, an All-Pro linebacker last season, and
Parker, the team's leading rusher, didn't play against Cleveland.
"The good news is nobody is on injured reserve, but it seems I
spend half the news conference reading the injury list," said
Cowher, who listed 13 players as probable or worse. "But nobody is
going to feel sorry for us, and we're not going to feel sorry for
Cowher isn't second guessing his training camp decision to keep
Batch, a former Lions starter who had thrown only eight passes in
four years going into the season. Roethlisberger, at 23, figured to
start every game, and former starter Maddox was set as his backup,
so keeping Batch looked to be a luxury.
Not now. When Roethlisberger sat out with an injury to his other
knee, Maddox played terribly in a 23-17 loss to Jacksonville on
Oct. 16, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble -- causing
him to lose his backup job to Batch.
After Batch was hurt Sunday, Maddox played the second half and
went 4-of-7 for 22 yards. The Steelers threw little after wide
receiver Antwaan Randle El's 51-yard scoring pass to Hines Ward on
a reverse put them up 24-7 in the opening two minutes of the second
"I think Tommy will be fine," Cowher said. "I wanted him to
get some confidence -- some of it is him pressing. He sees the field
so well, he might be his own worst enemy when he tries to get ball
in there with four [defenders around]. ... So I think it's good he
had half of the game Sunday."
Maddox, then the starter, injured his right elbow at Baltimore
last season, allowing Roethlisberger to move into the lineup as a
rookie. Roethlisberger has since won 18 of 19 regular-season
starts. The Steelers haven't lost on the road since that 30-13
defeat at Baltimore on Sept. 19, 2004, winning their last 11 road
The Steelers also have former Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford on
their practice squad, and Randle El was a rollout quarterback at
Indiana before moving to wide receiver in the NFL.