Appendectomy sidelines Ben

PITTSBURGH – The skinny quarterback with vertigo has a new problem: Ben Roethlisberger underwent an emergency laparoscopic appendectomy Sunday afternoon.

The surgery was termed "uneventful" by Steelers Coach Bill Cowher, who said Roethlisberger was resting comfortably but will miss Thursday night's opener against the Miami Dolphins. From there, Roethlisberger will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

"The good news about it is it's not anything that's going to be long-term," Cowher said. "It's going to be short-term, but I don't know how much."

It's the same procedure Hines Ward underwent in 2002 before the third preseason game. He returned for the opener two weeks later.

The Steelers are in the process of adding a quarterback to the roster, but Cowher would not identify the player. It's unlikely it will be Tommy Maddox, who left the team on a sour note. Also available is former Steeler Brian St. Pierre, who was cut by the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. But, again, St. Pierre left on bad terms after turning down a spot on the Steelers' active roster for a spot on the Ravens' practice squad.

Other potential quarterback candidates are the recently released veteran Shaun King and former Steeler Kordell Stewart, who was not in a camp this summer.

Regardless of which quarterback the Steelers sign, the starter Thursday night at Heinz Field will be Charlie Batch, who finished the preseason with a passer rating of 62.6. It was dubbed by Cowher as the best preseason by Batch in his five years with the Steelers.

"We'll rally behind him and everybody else will do so as well," said Cowher. "It's a situation that can happen to any football team on any one day. That's the nature of this business. Adversity to me is not what knocks you down. It's how you handle it. It's how you respond to it. And I think this football team has, with its veterans, been down this road before, facing challenges and adversity. We knew it was going to happen; you never know what it's going to consist of. This is the hand we're dealt and we're moving on. Charlie's fine. What we'll do is assess the backup situation as the week goes on."

Batch was with Roethlisberger on Saturday night. The two attended the Virginia-Pitt college football game at Heinz Field. According to Cowher, Roethlisberger became ill overnight. He reported to the Steelers' South Side practice facility in the morning and was sent to team physician Dr. Anthony Yates. The surgery was performed at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

Batch said Roethlisberger gave no signs of being ill Saturday night.

"No, not at all," Batch said. "We watched the game, it ended, everybody left and everybody seemed fine when we were leaving. Within 12 hours this happened."

Batch practiced Sunday and practice-squad rookie Omar Jacobs ran the second team. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson took snaps during seven-on-seven passing drills.

After practice, Cowher called the team together to explain what happened to Roethlisberger and the normally ebullient squad was dead quiet as it broke the huddle and left the field.

"It was a little bit of a shock," said inside linebacker James Farrior. "He told us he's going to be out for awhile and until he gets back everybody's going to have to pick it up."

Farrior has been around long enough to notice how teams rise up when the starting quarterback goes down.

"It's unfortunate but I think it brings everybody closer together," he said. "You know everybody's got to be almost 100 percent and do that much better to make up for it." Would 100 percent be good enough if Wilson -- who hasn't played quarterback since his all-state prep days in Memphis – had to step under center?

"That's 150, maybe 200 percent, if he's got to get back there," Farrior said. "But he didn't look too bad. He can throw. He's got a nice arm."

As for Roethlisberger, Cowher was asked if his lack of conditioning this summer – due to the June 12 motorcycle accident – would play any role in his recovery from the appendectomy.

"I'm just glad that he's okay," Cowher said. "I'm not concerned about his conditioning; I'm concerned about his condition. That's the most important thing at this point.

"He's been fine. His conditioning has not been an issue throughout this whole training camp. If anything he's been in better condition from the standpoint of his weight being down, and I think he worked himself into it in training camp. He never really missed a practice. He was excited to go. It's one of those circumstances that happens. We're dealing with it and we're moving on."

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