Big Ben Has 'Black Cloud' Following Him
Steelers QB Still Hoping to Play on Monday
By ALAN ROBINSON
PITTSBURGH (Sept. 13) - Ben Roethlisberger is beginning to wonder about what he calls "that black cloud over my head."
The knee injury that kept him out of three games last season. The motorcycle crash in June that shattered his face and caused so much bleeding paramedics feared he might die. The appendectomy that forced him to miss the Pittsburgh Steelers ' first game, just when it seemed he had made a remarkably fast recovery from the crash.
"I've been through a little bit the last couple of months, but it's just another thing," Roethlisberger said Wednesday, when he practiced for the first time since his latest operation. "Things happen for a reason, and I'm taking that approach. That's why I'm going to get back as soon as I can."
In his mind, that means Monday's game in Jacksonville - two weeks and a day after his third operation in 10 months. Listed as questionable, he sounds like someone who's convinced he's ready to return.
"It feels normal," Roethlisberger said. "It feels like nothing's wrong."
His midsection remains a little sore, he said, but the discomfort is not expected to be a problem by Monday.
Wide receiver Hines Ward played two weeks after having an appendectomy during training camp in 2002 and made eight catches in a season-opening game against New England . He expects Roethlisberger to play but said there is bound to be some physical discomfort.
"There's no question you feel it. I mean, you just went under the knife," Ward said. "You're going to feel the pain a little bit. One play I got hit right in the stomach, right in the abdomen. It hurt a little bit, but it was more mental than anything else, because I saw I was going to get hit there. Once I got over the mental thing, I felt fine."
Roethlisberger, talking to reporters for the first time since his appendix attack, said he had no warning that he had a problem. He and backup quarterback Charlie Batch attended the Virginia-Pitt game the night before Roethlisberger woke up Sept. 3 with a bad stomachache.
"I didn't know what it was, so I just came in here," Roethlisberger said, referring to the Steelers' practice complex. "I passed coach (Bill Cowher) along the way. He told me to suck it up, it's just one of those things. You think it's a stomachache, and it turns out to be a lot worse than you think."
To try to keep the quarterback healthy, defensive end Brett Keisel put a partly empty bottle of water in Roethlisberger's locker for good luck. Apparently, playing off the adage that it should be viewed as half full rather than half empty.
Roethlisberger wants to get back as quickly as he can, even though backup Batch threw three touchdown passes in the 28-17 victory over Miami on Sept. 7. Although the Steelers did not practice Monday and Tuesday, Roethlisberger did some light throwing with his receivers both days.
Last season, Roethlisberger had to sit out a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville in Pittsburgh because of a knee injury unrelated to the one that required surgery several weeks later. Tommy Maddox replaced him in that game, turning the ball over four times, twice in overtime.
"It's always a battle with them," Roethlisberger said. "Their front seven on defense is unbelievable, and they've got some hard hitters in the secondary that are really smart. It's going to be a challenge for us offensively."