Steelers facing rookie receiver



Pittsburgh will play Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback more than expected.
DETROIT (AP) -- If Roy Williams catches a touchdown pass against Pittsburgh, he doesn't plan to cherish the moment.
Even though the rookie receiver will be making his professional debut, he knows it will be just an exhibition game when the Detroit Lions host the Steelers tonight.
"It counts, but really it doesn't count," said Williams, the Lions' seventh pick in the draft. "If I score, I wouldn't consider that my first NFL touchdown because it doesn't go down in the record books.
"But you know those guys are trying to make plays, trying to make their team or improve their standing, and they're going at full speed. It won't take me long to know I'm not at Texas. Especially as a rookie, they're probably going to come at me harder."
Roethlisberger in debut
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 11 pick, will make his NFL debut about 45 miles east of where he played his first college game. The Steelers just hope he doesn't break his nose, like the former Miami of Ohio star did at Michigan Stadium after taking his first hit on his first series.
Roethlisberger will play more than he expected to earlier in the week because backup Charlie Batch, a former Lion, is out with a knee injury. Steelers coach Bill Cowher said Tommy Maddox will play the first quarter, followed by Roethlisberger and Brian St. Pierre.
Roethlisberger's family and friends from Findlay, Ohio, will have to drive only 100 miles to see him play.
"I think he is looking forward to it," Cowher said. "He will certainly not be overwhelmed by it, I can say that about him."
Cowher is also looking forward to tonight because he can't create game situations for the rookie quarterback in practice.
"That is the one position that it is hard to simulate the game speed," Cowher said. "With the other positions, you are hitting full contact, nine on sevens, the wide receivers and defensive backs are going full speed.
"It is hard to simulate the rush and speed that the quarterback is going to experience for the first time at this level."
Rogers will return
Charles Rogers will not be making his debut, but will play for the first time since breaking his collarbone and missing the last 11 games last year.
"I'm excited to get back out there. It's been a long time," said Rogers, the No. 2 pick in 2003. "You've got to be fearless because this is the ultimate contact sport. You can't worry about injuries. I put all of that behind me. If I take a hit, I take a hit.
"And, it'll be good to see my man Plaxico Burress again."
Rogers and Burress, a Pittsburgh receiver, are the only players in Michigan State history with two seasons of 60 receptions and 1,000 yards. Luckily for the rest of the Big Ten, they were not on the field at the same time. Burress was a Spartan from 1997-99, and Rogers followed in 2000-02.
"Plex and I stay in touch. I check on him, and he checks on me," Rogers said. "It's definitely a receiver fraternity thing up there with some of the great wide receivers that have come out of Michigan State like Andre Rison, Courtney Hawkins, Muhsin Muhammad. The list goes on and on."
Injury update
Batch underwent season-ending knee surgery and was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Batch, in his seventh NFL season, had soreness in his knee this week and doctors found damage when Batch underwent an MRI on Thursday.
The Steelers signed quarterback Kurt Kittner to replace Batch on the roster.
Kittner, a third-year veteran from Illinois, spent the last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He completed 44 of 114 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions last season, starting four games last year and playing in seven. He didn't play in any games in 2002.
Kittner will be with the Steelers in Detroit for the preseason opener tonight.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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