Roethlisberger will start at QB Saturday, 2 months after crash

Friday, August 11, 2006

PITTSBURGH -- Two months after his motorcycle accident, Ben Roethlisberger is ready to take his first hit in a football game.

Roethlisberger will start the Steelers' exhibition game at Arizona on Saturday, two months to the day that he broke his jaw and nose and sustained other facial injuries in a serious accident in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger has been lobbying coach Bill Cowher to play since camp opened July 28, but Cowher had not confirmed until Thursday that the quarterback would start.

"I like the frame of mind he's in right now," Cowher said. "I'm not worried about Ben. It's more, I think, just getting our football team and making sure we're all on the same page and that we get back to where we need to be."

Roethlisberger will be replaced by backup Charlie Batch, likely before the end of the first quarter unless either team goes on a long scoring drive. Most of the playing time is expected to go to the quarterbacks competing for the No. 3 job, free agent Shane Boyd and fifth-round draft pick Omar Jacobs.

Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship in his second year as a starter last season, has not missed any training camp time due to the accident and hasn't seemed affected by it.

His rapid recovery has surprised and impressed his teammates, with wide receiver Hines Ward calling it "a miracle."

Roethlisberger lost a considerable amount of blood when he flew off his bike and struck the windshield of a car head-on, and he needed seven hours of surgery to repair his facial damage.

Now, Cowher said, Roethlisberger "seems the same old guy to me."

In Cowher's mind, the only hurdle left for Roethlisberger is to show he can stand up to a hit. Roethlisberger also sustained a concussion, lost some teeth and broke some orbital bones in an accident in which he wasn't wearing a helmet.

"Probably until he takes that first hit, that will be the last bit of apprehension you have or he may have," Cowher said. "I still think it's there. He says it's not, but I think it is. I think it would be for anybody, but I'm not concerned."

Roethlisberger considered using a newer model football helmet designed to afford extra protection against a concussion, but decided to stay with the helmet he wore previously. Roethlisberger said he had trouble seeing the entire field with the newer helmet.

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