It's official: Maddox Pipp-ed

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Two press conferences ago, Steelers coach Bill Cowher laughed at the question.<p> Yesterday, Cowher went right into the return to health of quarterback Tommy Maddox and what it means for rookie replacement Ben Roethlisberger.

"We're going to go into this week with him practicing and we'll see where he is by the end of the week in terms of his status," Cowher said of Maddox, who tore a tendon in his elbow Sept. 19 against the Baltimore Ravens.

In his place, Roethlisberger has won all five starts and compiled a passer rating of 104.7, fifth in the NFL.

Cowher continued with the meaty part of the opening remarks at his weekly press conference, as it pertains to Maddox's future status.

"He'll either be a third, in the worst-case scenario, or be ready to back up Ben in the best-case scenario," Cowher said. "In regards to that, I've talked to both Tommy and Ben. At whatever point Tommy does come back healthy, there will be no change made at quarterback. I think they both understand and we're ready to move on with that being the case."

A couple follow-up questions were made by reporters, who wanted more details of Cowher's meetings with each of his quarterbacks, but Cowher didn't reveal much.

"Tommy is another guy who's put the team before himself," he said. "There are a lot of players on this team who've done that. That's the thing you've got to guard against because all of the sudden you start to have a little bit of notoriety and some players are getting it more than other players. You've got to make sure you continue to take that same unselfish approach and keep things in perspective as Jerome (Bettis) and Duce (Staley) have done all year, and Verron Haynes. They all want to play more but they've accepted that role.

"Now the same is true with Tommy Maddox. I think we've a number of players on this football team that have been able to do that and need to continue to do that and need to continue to do that for us to get to where we want to go."

The Steelers are 6-1 after beating the defending champion and previously undefeated New England Patriots. They can tie for the NFL's best record Sunday by beating the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field. No team has ever beaten undefeated teams in consecutive games this late in the season.

The Eagles are led offensively by the pass-catch combination of Donovan McNabb (102.9 passer rating) and Terrell Owens (42-697). Running back Brian Westbrook (90-458) missed last week's game with a broken rib and could miss Sunday's game as well.

Defensively, the Eagles have allowed the second-fewest points per game (14.9.) and lead the NFL in sacks (25). Defensive end Jevon Kearse leads a group of 13 Eagles sackers with 6.

"If Ben thought what he saw last week was a little confusing, there'll be mass confusion this week," Cowher said. "This guy (defensive coordinator Jim Johnson) is going to bring it and it's going to be from anywhere and everywhere.

"And you've got an offense, where you've got a quarterback (McNabb) who -- last week while (Tom) Brady was mobile, could read things and throws it -- is mobile, can read things and can run. We played him the first time (preseason) and we probably had about four or five sacks where we fell off the guy. He's an outstanding athlete who's playing quarterback right now at a very, very high level. Like I said, anything less than our best effort will not get it done."

Help will come in the form of inside linebacker Kendrell Bell, who is expected to play for the first time since the opening preseason game. Bell is recovering from a sports hernia.

"If he gets through practice by the end of the week he will dress, he will participate in the game," Cowher said. "In what capacity, it remains to be seen. He has not played really in a game since the first preseason game so I'd like to get him in there, get some snaps in this game, if he can do it, and just get him back acclimated to the speed and then we'll go from there."

Cowher said Bell would not start. He also said cornerback Chad Scott (thigh) is making progress but is still probably four weeks away from playing. Scott's been ruled out. Maddox is listed as questionable, while Staley (knee), Bell, Clark Haggans (foot) and Lee Mays (toe) are probable.

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