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Old 10-19-2005, 11:26 PM   #1
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Default Ben defends Tommy

Thursday, October 20, 2005

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With the tables turned, Ben Roethlisberger did not quite know how to act. What do you say to a fellow quarterback having a bad day?

Tommy Maddox would come to the sideline Sunday after another rotten series against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Roethlisberger would grope for just the right words that never came.

"It's hard," Roethlisberger said yesterday as he returned to lead the first-team offense in practice. "I consider myself a young guy, and to talk to a veteran like that, what do you say to him? He has had so much more experience than me.

"I just went up to him and patted him on the back and told him 'Keep your head up.' That's all I can do."

Roethlisberger's plea to play to coach Bill Cowher fell on stubborn ears Sunday, and the game turned on Maddox's four turnovers. Fans and, to an extent the coach, said it was a mistake to leave Maddox in the game the whole time.

Yesterday, Maddox watched practice because of a right shoulder injury that has him listed as questionable this week. He was not available in the locker room during two media interview sessions yesterday, spending much of his time in the trainer's room getting treatment for his injury.

But Roethlisberger thinks the wave of criticism was too harsh on Maddox.

"Absolutely. I think people need to realize -- and I know they won't -- that there were 45 mile an hour winds out there. It was tough. A lot of those plays were not his fault. The wind was knocking the balls down. There was no way he should have gotten the criticism he did. I was trying to support him and let him know it definitely was not his fault."

Roethlisberger said his injured left knee feels fine (he is listed as probable) and that it should not prevent him from protecting himself Sunday against a Cincinnati pass rush that spilled him for seven sacks in their previous meeting, a 19-14 Steelers victory Nov. 21 in Paul Brown Stadium.

"It's really exciting to be back out there. I felt bad last week not being able to be out there for my guys. I'm healthy now and ready to go.

"I feel good out there. I have a lot of confidence in the offensive line. I think they will do a great job of protecting me and, hopefully, I won't have to move at all."

Roethlisberger thought he could play last Sunday, but Cowher decided to err on the side of safety, not wanting to endanger his young quarterback.

"It was tough for me to miss that game," Roethlisberger said. "I wanted to be out there for my guys. I wanted them to know they could count on me. That was tough. That's why I tried to be out there. But coach made a decision, so all I could do was the best I could on the sideline."

Roethlisberger is the only starting quarterback in the league who has not thrown an interception, and he's the only one who averages more than 10 yards per pass, at 10.62. He leads the NFL with a 123.8 passer rating, but he also has thrown the fewest passes among the game's 32 leading passers (86). Cincinnati's Carson Palmer is second in the league with a 113.6 passer rating and has thrown only two interceptions in 197 attempts.

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