Big Ben wants to play Monday night; Cowher cautious

Updated: September 12, 2006, 10:12 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher may not decide until this weekend if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will start Monday night in Jacksonville, even if Roethlisberger already seems to have decided he is playing.

Roethlisberger missed the Steelers' opening 28-17 victory over Miami on Thursday after having an appendectomy on Sept. 3. He is listed as questionable, meaning there is a 50-50 chance he will play against the Jaguars.

"The bottom line is making sure he's comfortable, he feels like he can protect himself and he's going out there not thinking about those things."
-- Bill Cowher on Ben Roethlisberger

The quarterback is convinced he will be ready for the only Monday night game this season for the Super Bowl champions. He threw to some receivers Tuesday, a day the team otherwise did not work out, and has told Cowher he wants to play.

Asked if he thinks Roethlisberger will push hard to get on the field, Cowher said, "Yes."

"The bottom line is making sure he's comfortable, he feels like he can protect himself and he's going out there not thinking about those things," Cowher said. "It's getting the [medical] clearance, dealing with going through the work load and seeing how his body responds to that."

Cowher emphasized Roethlisberger has had a stressful few months medically, with his near-fatal June 12 motorcycle accident and the appendicitis attack less than three months later.

"The kid's been through a lot," Cowher said. "That's the thing that I want to make sure of, that he is comfortable and he feels good about himself. Then we'll make the decision at that point. Again, I'm not ready to say [now], 'OK, the doctors say he's OK.'

"He's a very competitive young man, and we'll talk. We have an open dialogue, and we'll go from there."

Roethlisberger is expected to practice Wednesday, the first workout the Steelers will have had in a week. They have an unusually long 11-day break between games, and Cowher said that could be beneficial for Roethlisberger.

"Yes, he needs to practice," Cowher said. "He's not going to sit there and not practice until Monday and then have me say, 'Go out and play.' ... We'll see how he feels, see how efficiently he's able to move around."

Roethlisberger sat out a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville last season because of a knee injury. In that loss, backup Tommy Maddox committed four turnovers in one of the worst games by a quarterback in team history.

In the overtime, Maddox not only lost a fumble that likely prevented the Steelers from kicking a decisive field goal, he threw the interception that Rashean Mathis returned 41 yards for the winning score. Maddox was cut by the team in March.

The Steelers got much better play against Miami last week from backup QB Charlie Batch, who threw three touchdown passes in his first season-opening start in five years. Batch, who replaced Maddox as Roethlisberger's backup following that Jacksonville game last year, is 3-0 as a fill-in starter the last two seasons.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press