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September 4, 2006
Big Ben Out For The Opener

Big Ben Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, will miss the season opener this Thursday night after appendicitis caused him to have his third major surgery this summer:

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an emergency appendectomy after becoming ill before practice 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 2½ 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 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 a year ago before leading 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.

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.

Usually appendectomies involve laparascopic surgery, which allows for minimal injury to the abdominal wall and a faster healing process. Of course, contact sports make the risk greater for herniation and internal bleeding, and given the smashmouth style of football the Steelers play, that seems to be an even greater consideration. Hines Ward had the same operation two summers ago and missed two exhibition games, but made it back for the opener. It seems likely that Big Ben will miss more than just one game.

Fortunately, the Steelers have Charlie Batch on the sidelines. Batch did well in two appearances last year, winning both while Roethlisberger recovered from injuries. Batch has plenty of experience as a starting QB with the hapless Detroit Lions, and has had another year to learn the Steelers' system. He won't have the same physical presence of Big Ben, which will definitely have an impact, but he's got better mobility and may complicate opposing defenses' plans for the Steelers.

The Steelers are also talking to Tommy Maddox about returning for 2006. Maddox got cut after a series of unimpressive appearances, and he sulked his way out of a White House appearance after the Super Bowl. He may or may not decide to come back as a hard-luck alternative, but he does know the system and could contribute if needed.

Most of all, we need Big Ben to fully recover if we're going to make another run at the championship. They need to keep him on the sidelines until he's healed completely. Hopefully, Charlie will make that decision a little easier for Bill Cowher.

UPDATE: The Steelers do not have Antwaan Randle-El, who went to the Redskins this off-season. Too bad; I love watching him play, and he was one of my favorite Steelers. I hope he does well against everyone but Pittsburgh, should the two teams meet.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 4, 2006 10:26 AM

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