A look at the quarterbacks

Will Big Ben be signed and in camp when it opens July 30? Will it matter? <br><br> Probably not. <br><br> Tommy Maddox enters training camp for the Steelers as the team's incumbent starter for the second straight season. And there's no reason to believe the Steelers are going to send him to the bench at any time this season despite spending the 11th pick in this year's draft on Ben Roethlisberger.

To drive that point home, the team gave Maddox, who will be 33 in September, what amounted to an extra $2 million in signing bonus money.

Certainly Roethlisberger will get more than that, but the Steelers are paying Maddox to be their starting quarterback this season.

Does that mean getting to camp on time won't be important for Roethlisberger, the third quarterback selected in this year's draft and the first one taken in the first round by the Steelers since Mark Malone in 1980? No.

Roethlisberger has plenty to learn about the NFL. He's got the arm. He's got the smarts. He's got all of the physical ability in the world. But he needs some polish. That polish will begin to be worked into his veneer in August as he gets his first taste of live NFL action.

But don't expect Roethlisberger to get anything more than mop-up duty once the season begins. He'll spend much of the season glued to new quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple's hip.

Maddox had an up-and-down campaign in 2003. He threw for 3,414 yards and tossed 18 touchdown passes. But he also threw 17 interceptions, including three early in the season that were returned for touchdowns.

Part of the problem last season was the problems the team had with its offensive line and its lack of a true running game - problems which go hand in hand. Maddox was sacked 41 times and hit many more times than that.

It's often said that older quarterbacks start to hear the footsteps. But even at his advanced age, Maddox is hardly over the hill in terms of NFL experience.

The ideal situation for the Steelers is for what happened in Cincinnati last season with Jon Kitna when the team drafted Carson Palmer. Kitna responded by having a career season, being named the NFL's comeback player of the year.

This season, Palmer will take over and Kitna becomes a very capable No. 2 QB.

The Steelers also feel they have a capable No. 3 quarterback in veteran Charlie Batch and you can expect him to remain on the roster this season. Though Maddox's critics can no longer say he's fragile, the Steelers will still feel more comfortable having Batch around to play if Maddox is hurt on a long-term basis.

Batch isn't great, but with the Steelers' receivers, he's more than capable of getting the job done. Plus, Batch is under contract at a reasonable price for one more season. There's no real reason for the Steelers to get rid of him.

That means second-year man Brian St. Pierre is likely the odd man out unless he really lights things up in training camp.

St. Pierre looked pedestrian throughout training camp last year, but played well in the team's preseason finale to save his roster spot.

He'll need to be much more consistent this year to keep his roster spot.

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