The Denver Broncos' offensive line is playing well, blocking for the second-best rushing attack in the NFL through eight weeks. But the Broncos are an injury or two away from being in some trouble on the line.
The season-ending injuries to guard Dwayne Carswell, suffered in a car accident last week, hurt the Broncos' depth on the line. Denver's line already was thin.
Denver lost guard P.J. Alexander, who was supposed to compete for a starting spot this season, to a season-ending knee injury suffered in an off-road vehicle accident. The Broncos kept only three backup linemen to start the season.
Last week the Broncos had rookie Chris Myers, a sixth-round pick, as their primary backup at guard and center because they didn't have many options.
"When somebody goes down you're hoping that these guys that are backing up can step up," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
--CB Karl Paymah's role could increase now that Lenny Walls' season with the Broncos is finished. Paymah is a rookie who struggled early in the season but is improving.
--P Todd Sauerbrun has been a good addition by the Broncos. He has helped Denver win the field position battle in most of its games.
--DE Marco Coleman was active for Denver's game against Philadelphia. Coleman has been inactive most of the season but the Broncos can count on the longtime veteran whenever he is needed.
--TE Nate Jackson was inactive for Denver's last game against Philadelphia. Jackson could be a factor later in the season, however, because he was used in three tight-end sets that create matchup problems for opposing defenses.
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday morning and will miss Sunday's game in Green Bay and perhaps the Steelers' next game, against Cleveland.
Charlie Batch will make his first start for Pittsburgh and first since 2001, when he was the starting quarterback of the Detroit Lions. He becomes the third quarterback to start a game for the Steelers this season. Tommy Maddox started for an injured Roethlisberger against Jacksonville Oct. 16 and played so poorly in that loss to the Jaguars that he was demoted to No. 3 and Batch was promoted to No. 2.
Roethlisberger had part of the meniscus in his right knee removed after it was torn during the first series of Monday night's game against Baltimore, won by Pittsburgh 20-19. Roethlisberger never left the game and led the Steelers to the winning points on Jeff Reed's 37-yard field goal with 1:36 to go.
An MRI on Tuesday showed the damage to his knee but it took a second opinion by Dr. James Andrews and some convincing of Roethlisberger to have the surgery.
"He wants to play through everything," coach Bill Cowher said. "But just sitting down (Wednesday) night and talking about what the options were, I think there is no question that this was the right thing to do and to do it now."
The procedure took 15 minutes. It was the third injury to Roethlisberger's knees this season. His right knee was bruised in the opener and his left knee was hyperextended Oct. 10 in San Diego.
Roethlisberger, the NFL's leading passer with a 112.4 rating, is 19-2 as a starter in the regular season and playoffs, losing only to New England twice.
"He got hit (in the opener against Tennessee) and it's been off-and-on bothering him," Cowher said. "He's had good days and bad days. He was playing through it. The other night, it was really aggravated when it got twisted on the one throw. It got stuck in the ground. I felt good about the fact that we did what we did and took a proactive approach to it."
Wednesday, Cowher listed Roethlisberger as questionable for Sunday's game but that soon changed.
"I always want to play," Roethlisberger said. "I want to be out there for the guys."
Roethlisberger said he cannot allow worries about his future health to affect his desire to play now.
"You always worry about the future when it comes to injuries," he said, "but for me, no, you live one day at a time. I always try to do everything I can to help the team because my thought is this year. I understand everyone always worries about longevity and a long career and this and that but I'm living for this year right now. Let's see what we can do for this year."
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