Roethlisberger's injury not serious

PITTSBURGH – When asked about the upcoming game, Bill Cowher said the win in San Diego would mean nothing without a good showing against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Steelers fans agreed with the coach up -- until the last phrase. They went to sleep Monday night convinced the win in San Diego would mean nothing with an injured quarterback.

Yesterday at noon, Cowher allowed those fans to exhale.

An MRI performed Tuesday morning on Ben Roethlisberger revealed no ligament damage after the quarterback took a ferocious hit on his planted left leg from San Diego lineman Luis Castillo.

Roethlisberger, the NFL's leader with a 123.8 passer rating, spent the final 1:05 on the bench as Jeff Reed kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 24-22 win. Teammates hinted after the game that Roethlisberger's injury wasn't as bad as it looked, and they were right.

"It's what we thought," Cowher said Tuesday at his press conference. "It's a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise. I am not going to rule him out this week. We'll see how the week progresses."

Cowher received more good news Tuesday when injured back-up Tommy Maddox reported that his calf felt much better after an injury last Friday knocked him out of Monday's game.

"We thought it was a lot like Jerome's," Cowher said of the calf injury that cost Bettis the first three games of the season. "I think (Maddox) is going to practice (Wednesday). There's a good chance he'll be available this week as well."

Cowher said Maddox's progress this week will determine whether the Steelers add a quarterback to their roster. They did add former Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford to the practice squad.

The only player ruled out of Sunday's game against the Jaguars is reserve cornerback Ricardo Colclough, who aggravated an injured left shoulder on a third-quarter kickoff return.

Colclough was replaced by Cedrick Wilson and Quincy Morgan in the return game, and by Willie Williams in the dime defensive package. The Steelers might also turn to rookie second-round pick Bryant McFadden, who's buried on the bench behind an unusually large number of cornerbacks kept this season by the Steelers.

Aside from injury news, Cowher confirmed that Bettis will remain a big part of the running-back rotation after his performance in San Diego. Bettis carried 17 times for 54 yards in reserve of Willie Parker, who was held to 26 yards on 10 carries.

Bettis carried on nine of the Steelers' last 10 running plays, including all seven carries for 21 yards on the game-winning drive.

Cowher decided to activate Bettis instead of Duce Staley on Monday after Bettis showed "that bounce in his step" last week at practice. Staley, according to Cowher, is still not recovered from torn meniscus cartilage from the first week of training camp.

"Duce, quite frankly, might not be 100 percent this whole year," Cowher said. "Jerome Bettis, he gives you something."

Cowher felt Bettis looked better at training camp than he had "in the last three or four years" and that "Duce is getting better each week and we can ease him into it."

As for Bettis's role, Cowher sounded as if Monday night's backfield rotation would serve as the model for upcoming games.

"In an ideal world, yes," Cowher said. "I don't know how it's always going to unfold. It was nice to be able to have a fresh Jerome Bettis in the fourth quarter (Monday) night. That was a luxury. That's what you'd like to have in an ideal world. When we hand the ball to him, you know there was not going to be a negative play."

Against the Jaguars, the Steelers will face a defense with massive and talented tackles – Marcus Stroud (6-6, 312) and John Henderson (6-7, 328) – in the middle of the line. However, the Jaguars do allow 130.4 rushing yards per game to rank 29th against the run in the league. They allow 4.3 yards per carry.

"It's going to be a tough week," Cowher said. "But we've been in this situation before. The thing we understand is (Monday) night will go for naught if we don't follow it up with a stellar performance. If we don't, we will not compete with this team."

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