Notebook: Gasp! Ben misses practice!

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> It led off the top of city newscasts last night, but Ben Roethlisberger scoffed at the importance, or lack thereof, after he missed Wednesday's practice.

Roethlisberger injured a quadriceps muscle Sunday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He didn't remember when or how he was injured, but Roethlisberger missed the practice along with 11 others. Roethlisberger assured reporters he'd practice today and play Sunday.

"I will play Sunday as long as coach (Bill) Cowher lets me," he said.

Also missing practice were Duce Staley (personal), Plaxico Burress (hamstring), Verron Haynes (knee), Brett Keisel (hamstring), Kimo von Oelhoffen (knee), James Farrior (shoulder), Clark Haggans (groin), Jeff Hartings (back) and Sean Morey (quad).

Kendrell Bell (groin) and Chad Scott (knee) had already been ruled out of Sunday's game against the New York Jets. Burress, Haynes, Keisel and von Oelhoffen are questionable. The rest of the injured players are probable.

Bell, the injury-plagued inside linebacker, talked about the potential for his recovery.

"I don't want to set myself up to play by a certain date because if it doesn't happen I don't want to be disappointed. It's all I can do. Take it how it comes," he said.

Can Bell make it back this season?

"I'm hopeful," he said. "I feel like I'm able to. I don't feel I should be on IR or anything. It's a slow process, but it's getting there."

COLLEGE COACHES

The New York Jets' Curtis Martin is only 6 yards behind No. 5 Jerome Bettis on the NFL's all-time leading rushing list, and both running backs traded compliments yesterday. They both also offered their former colleges advice on the respective coaching situations.

Bettis likes Joe Montana's idea of having Tom Clements become the new coach at Notre Dame. "He'd make a great Notre Dame coach," Bettis said of the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator and former Steelers quarterbacks coach.

"A lot of these guys would make great Notre Dame coaches but you have to give them a chance to get their program in place. Giving a coach three years, it doesn't matter who it is they're not going to have a lot of success.

"Tommy Clements, I think he'd be a great fit in that situation. It's just a matter of getting the guy and staying with him."

Isn't Clements, who quarterbacked the Irish to a national championship in 1973, too quiet?

"I don't think you need a fiery football coach," Bettis said. "People asked the same questions about Ty (Willingham). 'Is he too quiet? Is he not fiery? Is he too much of a good guy to the players?' I don't think that's the case. You have to have players to win. It does matter about your coaching style but in college if you don't have the players, nine times out of 10 you're not going to win."

Bettis also recommended Wisconsin coach and Washington County native Barry Alvarez for the Notre Dame job.

Martin, a former Pitt player and Penn Hills native, believes Pitt should stick with Walt Harris.

"My philosophy is that you don't have to fix things that aren't broken," said Martin. "Maybe I can't see it from the outside but I really believe that he has the potential to take Pitt to higher and higher levels, and he has been doing that. I think when he inherited the team, it was just a bad situation. He's turning them around in my opinion. Let him keep doing his job."

COMIN' AND GOIN'

Sixth-round draft pick Bo Lacy was signed off the Steelers' practice squad by the Chicago Bears.

The Steelers replaced Lacy with center Lenny Vandermade of the University of Southern California. Vandermade initially signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie and spent a couple of weeks on the team's practice squad.

QUOTABLE

Martin on Jets quarterback Chad Pennington: "I can't speak for everybody, but I know I had doubts. … I watched him at practice and thought to myself that this guy can't do it. A part of me, when they made the change, was against it. Yet, he has been proving everyone else and myself wrong, to his credit, and I'm glad he did."

Roethlisberger on what Sunday's last-minute drive did for his confidence: "It was a great win for this team. That's what's most important. But we've put that behind us. We forgot about that game and right now the focus is on New York."

Roethlisberger on the positives of Plaxico Burress being out of the lineup: "It's a chance to get Antwaan (Randle El) out on the field running some different positions, and getting Lee on the field and getting Chris Doering back. Obviously it hurts you when you don't have a receiver like Plax out there but the rest of us are starting to come along and I think when Plax gets back he'll help this offense be that much better."


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