Tommy to start; Ben hopes to suit up

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Tommy Maddox will start at quarterback Sunday for the Steelers in their meaningless regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills, but Ben Roethlisberger feels he can be available for relief duty if needed.

Roethlisberger sat out of practice Wednesday but threw a dozen passes on the side and reported "a little bit" of pain from his bruised rib cartilage.

"It has more to do with my velocity," said Roethlisberger. "I don't have a lot of velocity on the ball right now but that'll come with rest."

The extent of Roethlisberger's recovery this week will determine whether coach Bill Cowher activates Brian St. Pierre from the practice squad.

Roethlisberger injured the middle portion of his rib cage last Sunday when he was driven into the turf by Terrell Suggs during a third-quarter touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman. Suggs was flagged for roughing the passer, but Roethlisberger doesn't believe it was a cheap shot.

"I don't think he did anything dirty," Roethlisberger said. "He drove me into the ground, which didn't feel too good, but I don't think it was anything illegal. He's a great player, a Pro Bowl player. You don't expect cheap things coming from a guy like that so I don't think there was anything wrong with it."

Roethlisberger has always worn a flak jacket, but isn't sure if it helped prevent a more serious injury.

"The way I hit, it wasn't the impact, it was more the way I got squeezed together," he said. "(The bruise) was more in the middle. It was more where I fell, how the ribs squeezed together."

After Wednesday's practice, Cowher announced Maddox would start against the Bills. Maddox lost his job during the second game this season when he injured his throwing elbow. He said the arm has been healthy for nearly a month now.

"The team's playing well, with a lot of confidence," Maddox said. "Not to say that if things don't go well on Sunday everybody's just going to lose their confidence, but it's a very confident football team that's playing well and you want to keep that rolling. Every time you step on the field you want to go out there and play to the best of your abilities and I think we'll do that."

With Maddox as a starter, the Steelers are 14-14-1. The Steelers were 1-1 with Maddox this year before he was injured. It opened the door for Roethlisberger, the first-round pick, who has gone on an unprecedented 13-0 run as the Steelers' quarterback.

Does Maddox look back and wonder how history might've changed had he not been injured?

"Not really," he said. "Things happen for a reason. I know that, and have gone through my whole career knowing that, and so this too has happened for a reason. It might be for this team to have the successful season that we've had, or we might've been just as successful if I was playing. Who knows? But you can't sit there and try to figure out things that don't happen. Things happen, you deal with them and you go on."

Maddox has played in brutal weather at times during his career. He called Giants Stadium the coldest place he's ever played, both as a member of the Giants and as a member of the Steelers.

He quarterbacked the Steelers to a 6-0 loss to the New York Jets in a blizzard last season at Giants Stadium, so he's ready for any type of weather conditions in Buffalo. The conditions, according to The Weather Channel, are expected to be mild for this time of year. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s.

"With all the things they have now, with the heat-warmers and all those things, it's really not that bad once your adrenaline's going," Maddox said. "It's a lot worse when you're not playing in the cold, cold, cold weather."

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