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Big Ben to miss season opener



Published: Mon, September 4, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Super Bowl quarterback had an emergency appendectomy Sunday.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an emergency appendectomy after becoming ill Sunday and will miss Thursday night's season opener against Miami.

Coach Bill Cowher is not certain how long Roethlisberger will be out following the quarterback's third operation in 10 months and second in 21/2 months. Roethlisberger began having pain and was vomiting Sunday morning, and was taken to UPMC Presbyterian for surgery after being examined by the team's medical staff.

"The surgery went well," Cowher said. "He is obviously going to be out this week and we will go week to week from there."

Batch to start

Charlie Batch, the former Lions starter who was 2-0 as a fill-in last season when Roethlisberger hurt his knee, will start against the Dolphins in the NFL's season-opening showcase game.

"This is why Charlie is here. Charlie will be fine," Cowher said. "It's a situation that can happen to any football team. You can go out there and have a starter go down, whether it's an ankle or something else of that nature. That's the nature of the business."

The appendix attack is yet another medical setback for Roethlisberger, who nearly died in a June 12 motorcycle accident only to make a remarkably fast recovery. He missed no practice time during training camp and played better in the preseason than he did last year, when he went on to lead the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory in 26 years.

Roethlisberger missed four games last season because of two knee injuries, one that required surgery, and injured his right thumb late in the season. He later said he broke it, though the Steelers never have confirmed that, but he missed no playing time because of that injury.

Cause still unknown

It was not immediately known if the motorcycle accident might have caused any internal damage that subsequently resulted in the appendix attack. All of Roethlisberger's known injuries from the crash -- a broken nose, orbital bones and upper and lower jaw, damaged teeth and a concussion -- were to his head.

According to various medical journals, one cause of appendicitis can be a perforation in the appendix. Unless there is severe bleeding, an otherwise healthy patient such as Roethlisberger often is released within 24 hours of surgery and has a relatively short recovery time.

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward also had an appendectomy in 2002 and missed the final two exhibition games, but returned to make eight catches in the season opener against New England.

The Steelers were to begin the season with only two quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and Batch, plus rookie Omar Jacobs on their practice squad. But Cowher said they would bring in another quarterback this week.

Maddox may return

One possibility might be former starter Tommy Maddox, who knows the Steelers' system better than any other quarterback they could bring in on short notice. But Maddox played poorly while losing two starts when Roethlisberger was out last season.

Unhappy at being cut after the season ended, Maddox was the only Steelers player who did not attend a White House ceremony honoring the Super Bowl champions this summer.

"We will assess the backup [situation] as the week goes on. This is the situation we are being dealt and we are not asking for any pity nor are we going to make any excuses," Cowher said. "We are going to get ready for Miami accordingly."

Roethlisberger is the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, doing so at age 23 as the Steelers beat Seattle 21-10 on Feb. 5. He is off to one of the best starts of any NFL quarterback in history, leading the Steelers to a 27-4 record in his 31 starts and to two AFC championship games and one Super Bowl in two seasons.

Cowher still confident

The Steelers made the playoffs last season even with Roethlisberger sitting out one-quarter of their schedule, and Cowher said they will overcome this latest setback.

"Adversity is not what knocks you down, it is how you handle it and how you respond to it," he said. "This football team with its veterans has been down this road before, facing challenges and adversity."

The Steelers may be without their two top skill-position players against Miami. Ward, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the Super Bowl MVP, didn't have a full training camp practice after Aug. 3 because of a sore hamstring and is listed as questionable. He did not play in the preseason.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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