Steelers' Ward hopeful Big Ben will return by Week 2

Updated: September 6, 2006, 1:36 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger will miss one game following his emergency appendectomy. Hines Ward, who had the same procedure four years ago, will be surprised if the Pittsburgh quarterback misses a second.

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After all, Ward said, isn't Roethlisberger's remarkably fast recovery from his June motorcycle accident proof enough how fast a healer he is?

Steelers coach Bill Cowher said that Roethlisberger was released from the hospital on Monday.

Unless there are some unexpected medical complications, Ward expects Roethlisberger to play in the second game of the season Sept. 18 in Jacksonville. Because the Steelers play the NFL's season-opening game Thursday against Miami, they will have 11 days off before their next game.

"He's going to do whatever it takes to play against Jacksonville. He doesn't like to miss games," Ward said Monday. "Knowing Ben, he's going to be there for Jacksonville."

Ward spoke with some knowledge of the situation. He also had an appendectomy during the preseason, in 2002, but returned 17 days later to make eight catches in the Steelers' opener against New England.

Steelers get QB help
Moving quickly to bolster their quarterback corps, the Steelers on Monday morning signed free agent quarterback Brian St. Pierre to the practice squad.

St. Pierre, 26, who spent most of last season on the Baltimore practice squad and who was released on Saturday by the Ravens, was at the top of the Steelers' list Sunday when team officials were scrambling to add a player who is familiar with the Pittsburgh offense and who could get up to speed quickly. The Steelers never seriously considered re-signing veteran Tommy Maddox, a former starter in Pittsburgh and the team's No. 3 quarterback in 2005.

A fifth-round choice of the Steelers in the 2003 draft, St. Pierre spent two years with team before he was released last summer. He appeared in one game, in 2004, and registered one pass attempt.

St. Pierre and rookie Omar Jacobs, a fifth-round pick in this year's draft, will get snaps behind Charlie Batch this week, and then the coaching staff will determine who will be elevated to the active roster to serve as the No. 2 quarterback for Thursday night's regular-season opener.

-- ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli

Ward was still in pain, but not to the point it affected his play.

"You're not going to be 100 percent -- you just went under the knife -- and it all depends on how much pain tolerance he has," Ward said. "Ben's a guy who's played with pain before."

Roethlisberger broke his nose, upper and lower jaw, some eye socket bones and got a concussion during his June 12 motorcycle accident, but didn't miss any training camp time because of it.

The quarterback was released from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian on Monday following his third operation in less than a year. Coach Bill Cowher said he won't discuss Roethlisberger's playing status until next week.

"He's doing fine and eating well and walking around. ... He's eager to get back," Cowher said. "The best thing about it is the surgery went well."

Losing Roethlisberger is a setback to the Super Bowl champions going into a difficult opener against Miami, Ward said, but he emphasized how they went 2-0 with Charlie Batch as a fill-in starter last season.

Batch looked rusty while throwing for only 65 yards in a 20-10 victory in Green Bay on Nov. 6, his first substantial game action in nearly four years. He was much sharper a week later, going 13-of-19 for 150 yards during a 41-0 rout of Cleveland.

"You think you can jump right in and the game speed is going to come right away, and it didn't happen," said Batch, the Lions' starter for most of four seasons from 1998-2001. "I was kind of a split-second off while I was in Green Bay, but I was able to rebound when I came back against Cleveland. Definitely, having those games was good."

"He's going to do whatever it takes to play against Jacksonville. He doesn't like to miss games. Knowing Ben, he's going to be there for Jacksonville."
-- Hines Ward, on Big Ben's return from an appendectomy

Batch doesn't expect to be off on his timing against Miami after spending considerable time practicing with the starting offense during camp.

Ward said the offensive game plan wasn't altered despite the change at quarterback.

"It is disappointing for us watching Ben get better, working his tail off to get back to where he was, and it's frustrating," Ward said. "But we've got to rally around Charlie. The confidence and comfort level with Charlie, it's there."

Ward returned to practice this week and expects to play after missing much of training camp with a sore hamstring.

Batch grew up in Pittsburgh and was an elementary school classmate of Dolphins defensive star Jason Taylor, so he expects to be more pumped up than usual starting a season opener. Batch hasn't played in an opener since 2001 with Detroit, but now gets to start one in his hometown.

"I've got to calm myself down because I'm excited, and to be able to start at home and do this in front of family and friends is great," Batch said. "I haven't had too many opportunities to play at Heinz Field and that's why I'm excited. But my mom is probably more excited than me, so I'll have to calm her down."

Batch attended the Virginia-Pitt game with Roethlisberger on Saturday night, and was as surprised as anyone to learn 12 hours later that he was ill and would miss at least one game.

"I never imagined anything was wrong with him," Batch said. "But that's why I'm here. I'm glad to have this opportunity and a couple of days to prepare for that. Most of the time, your number is called and you just run into the game."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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