PITTSBURGH – If Hines Ward had to, would he bet on Ben Roethlisberger recovering in time to play the second game of the season, a Monday night game at Jacksonville?
“Me knowing Ben, yes,” said Ward. “He’s going to do whatever it takes to play. He doesn’t like to miss games and he’s going to go out there and do whatever it takes to be out there for Jacksonville.”
Ward should know. He also underwent a laparoscopic appendectomy. His was done before the third preseason game in 2002 and he returned to play in the opener at New England. He caught eight passes for 90 yards and a touchdown and went on to a record-setting 112-catch season.
Roethlisberger, of course, will miss Thursday night’s opener against the Miami Dolphins after undergoing the procedure Sunday afternoon. He left UPMC Presbyterian Hospital on Monday afternoon and Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said “he’s doing fine, eating well and walking around.”
Cowher added: “He’s always kind of thrived on these kinds of challenges. I think that’s what made him what he is today. Just talking to him last night he really seemed fine. He’s eager to get back.”
Charlie Batch will start Thursday night. The 31-year-old is coming off his best camp with the Steelers, according to Cowher.
Batch started two games last season and the Steelers won both. He’ll be backed up by Brian St. Pierre, who was signed to the practice squad Monday. The Steelers released John Kuhn from the practice squad to make room.
A fifth-round draft pick by the Steelers in 2003, St. Pierre played in one game in 2004 and attempted one pass.
In the 2005 preseason, St. Pierre completed 12 of 21 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown (87.2 passer rating), but he was released before the season started and later in September signed with the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad.
When the Steelers attempted to add St. Pierre to their active roster before the Oct. 16 game against Jacksonville, St. Pierre told them he’d rather remain on the Ravens’ practice squad.
“I was told by Baltimore I was going to be brought up at the end of the season for four or five games and they actually did that,” St. Pierre said from under his old locker room nameplate with his familiar No. 2.
“I wasn’t sure if coming back here was just going to be for a couple games with Ben coming back, so I had to make the best business decision for me. It wasn’t an easy decision by any stretch, and then to miss the Super Bowl, I mean, that’s tough but that’s just the way it worked out, but I’m glad to be back.”
St. Pierre didn’t throw a regular-season pass for the Ravens. In four preseason games this year he completed 7 of 16 for 62 yards, an interception and a 28.6 passes rating. The Ravens kept only two quarterbacks and cut St. Pierre last weekend.
“They weren’t going to keep three,” he said. “That was made clear pretty early on. At practice the third guy wasn’t even getting reps, so I kind of had an inkling it wasn’t going to work out there. Luckily for me Pittsburgh needed a guy to come in and I’m glad to be here.”
The Steelers won’t activate him until they have to. That would leave fifth-round draft pick Omar Jacobs on the practice squad. Cowher said Jacobs has become “more comfortable than he was 10 days ago” with the offense, and Jacobs affirmed that last Thursday night when he played his best preseason game. He finished the preseason with the team’s highest passer rating, 99.5, and won’t let the signing of St. Pierre affect him in a negative manner.
“It is what it is,” Jacobs said. “It’s part of the business. I’m not saying anything. I’m not upset at anybody because you never know what can happen in the NFL. I’m staying positive about it and going out and trying to get better every day.”
The quarterback breathing a sigh of relief upon the signing of St. Pierre was wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who was “great in seven-on-seven drills” Sunday, according to Cowher. Wilson hadn’t played quarterback since his freshman year at Tennessee in 1997.
“I was a little bit rusty [Sunday] but I completed some passes,” said Wilson. “The number one thing for me was taking the snap, saying the cadence, saying the plays. Those are the most important things. Everything else takes care of itself, but I hope it don’t come to that point.”
Doesn’t Wilson want to play quarterback?
“I will,” he said. “But I’m praying that Charlie stays healthy.”