Roethlisberger throws, listed as questionable
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 later.
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 Wednesday.
"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 ourselves."
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 half.
"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 games.
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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