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Old 09-21-2006, 11:03 PM   #1
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Default Forget Big Ben's Monday Night fever, his career suggests he will warm up by Sunday

Forget Big Ben's Monday Night fever, his career suggests he will warm up by Sunday
Friday, September 22, 2006

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ben Roethlisberger has had 14 games with a passer rating higher than his much-discussed body temperature Monday night in Jacksonville, even if it were 104 degrees.

Two of those have come against the Cincinnati Bengals, who come to Heinz Field Sunday at something of a fever pitch themselves.

Roethlisberger has cooled down since Monday night and has two more days of antibiotics to kill the virus that infected his body during a 9-0 loss to the Jaguars, a game in which he threw two interceptions and had the third-lowest passer rating (38.7) of his career.

In addition to shaking the virus, Roethlisberger thinks he was able to shake some rust by playing against the Jaguars -- rust that likely accumulated after not having appeared in a game in 24 days, during which he had appendectomy surgery.

"I think it helped, I really do," Roethlisberger said yesterday. "Getting out there for the first time in a long time and getting some game action and getting hit a little bit, I had a 390-pounder land on my neck, so that felt good. But it is good to get out there and, hopefully, I'll be better this week."

Roethlisberger was talking about his performance on the field, not his health.

If history is any indication, he will be.

Roethlisberger played against the Jaguars as if he had a body temperature of 104 degrees, which he said was actually 100.4 and not the number reported by Michele Tafoya, an ESPN sideline commentator. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 141 yards with two interceptions, and he was wide and high with many of his passes, even when he was moving outside the pocket.

He overthrew a deep pass to Hines Ward on the second series of the game that missed by less than a foot of being a 48-yard touchdown.

"It was real close," Roethlisberger said. "Probably a step away."

"It's really hard to say if it was timing, but that was the first game we played together, that we actually had full time against live competition, full speed," said Ward, who missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury.

Roethlisberger had similar numbers the last time he came off a long layoff because of injury, and that was in the Nov. 28 loss in Indianapolis last year, also on a Monday night. In his first game back after missing three games because of arthroscopic knee surgery, Roethlisberger completed 17 of 26 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions in a 26-7 loss to the Colts. His passer rating was 58.7, his second-lowest rating of the season.

His opponent the following week?

The Bengals, also at Heinz Field.

And Roethlisberger was much more productive that week. He had career-highs with 41 attempts, 29 completions, 386 yards and three touchdowns against the Bengals, though he also had a career-high three interceptions in a 38-31 loss.

"You can't just come in and turn it on and turn it off," Ward said. "The speed of practice is totally different than the speed of the game. Any player coming off any injury, getting back out there and trying to catch up with the speed of the game, there's an adjustment period. There's no way you can turn it on, turn it off, because you can't simulate that speed at practice."

Roethlisberger is not looking to throw 41 passes as he did the last time the Bengals were at Heinz Field. Instead, he would be just as content throwing it 14 times, as he did in the regular-season victory last season in Cincinnati; or 19 times, as he did in the wild-card playoff victory in Paul Brown Stadium.

"The time we threw a lot, I made some mistakes," he said. "If I can limit those mistakes, that's the biggest thing -- turnovers. I had three interceptions that game, and that's too many."

Enough to make him sick.

That's what he was in Jacksonville when a high fever surfaced Monday morning, prompting coach Bill Cowher to constantly ask his quarterback how he was feeling during pregame warmups. Cowher, though, disputed the television report that said Roethlisberger had a temperature of 104 degrees during his Tuesday news conference, and the third-year quarterback did the same.

"I don't want to throw Michele under the bus, I think she's an awesome reporter and a good person, [but] I'm not sure where she got the information from," Roethlisberger said. "You know me, I don't share anything with you guys. I don't tell you guys anything. I was talking to [ESPN host] Chris Berman about it and I told him 100.4, and I don't know if she overheard it wrong. It might have been a miscommunication. But, nothing against her and, hopefully, she doesn't hold it against me."

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