Ben waiting until week's end for decision

PITTSBURGH – Charlie Batch leads the NFL in passer rating, but that isn't stopping Steelers Coach Bill Cowher from trying to get Ben Roethlisberger on the field Monday night in Jacksonville. The discourse has already begun.

Ben Roethlisberger showed up at the Pittsburgh Steelers' South Side practice facility on Monday and on Tuesday was throwing to receivers. Cowher was asked at his Tuesday press conference whether he expects Roethlisberger to lobby hard to play.

"Yes, we talked [Monday]," Cowher said. "I'm sure we'll be talking a lot in the next few days."

Cowher will make his decision later in the week, "closer to Friday or Saturday," he said. And Cowher will be looking for two things before deciding:

"How he feels," Cowher said, "and how efficiently he is able to move around."

Roethlisberger, of course, underwent an appendectomy Sunday, Sept. 3 and missed the Thursday night opener against the Miami Dolphins. The schedule gives the Steelers 11 days before their second game.

"Considering the circumstances," Cowher said, "it certainly was a big benefit."

Cowher said Roethlisberger will not be risking further damage, but that the quarterback must practice at some point this week to earn consideration for duty against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"The bottom line is making sure he's comfortable and can protect himself and he's not going out there thinking about those things," Cowher said. "The kid's been through a lot. I want to make sure he's comfortable and he feels good about himself. We'll make that decision at that point. I'm not ready to say that if the doctors say he's okay (that he'll play). He's a very competitive young man and we'll talk. We have an open dialogue and we'll go from there."

But can a coach trust a competitive quarterback to tell the truth?

"It's gotten a lot better," Cowher said of his trust factor with Roethlisberger. "I feel I can better interpret what's being said as to where it lies. That comes with time and I think the relationship that he and I have is a good one, at least from my perspective it is. We've talked enough that I have a feel for him and what he feels."

Another player who'll fall under Cowher's watchful eye this week is running back Najeh Davenport, who was signed by the team last Friday.

Davenport is a 6-1, 247-pound running back who's played tailback, fullback and been the third-down back for the Green Bay Packers throughout his four-year pro career. Davenport also has returned kicks (46 for a 24.1 average) and covered kicks.

Davenport has 1,068 career rushing yards and averages 4.9 yards per carry with a long of 76. His problem has been staying healthy. He's played in 39 pro games but missed at least a half of game action in 28 games. His most serious injuries have been a broken right ankle that cost him 10.5 games last season and a fractured left eye socket that cost him seven games his rookie season.

"We will see what he is able to pick up and how comfortable he is," Cowher said. "I think he is a proven big back and I think we are looking for that. Patrick [Cobbs] was a good runner in the preseason but I think when you look at our football team and the ability to get Najeh and what he has done -- I have watched him run – I think he fits what we are looking for.

"I sat down and talked with him last week and there are no guarantees about what the role would be. I think he is excited about the opportunity. I think he is the one guy that is out there that fits what we were looking for at this point with the make-up of our roster."

The Steelers released Cobbs to make room for Davenport. Last week the Steelers released coverage ace Chidi Iwuoma to make room for quarterback Brian St. Pierre, but Cowher has no plans to bring Iwuoma back before Monday's game, even though the quarterback crisis appears to have passed. Cowher said the NFL's worst punt-coverage stats on opening weekend shouldn't be blamed on the release of Iwuoma.

"I don't think you can say that because we didn't have Chidi," Cowher said. "I think some of the kicks weren't as good as I would like to see. Overall, the performance was not up to the expectations that we had, or the standards that have been set around here, so it is hopefully something that will get better in the upcoming weeks.

"Some of that is on me. I saved some of these guys from being out there in the preseason. They didn't cover any kicks in the preseason because I wanted to look at some other guys. As I told them, I put that first week on me because that was their first exposure with guys like Clint Kriewaldt and James Harrison. So I think we had to work out some of the kinks."

NOTES – Listed as questionable for Monday's game are Roethlisberger, tight end Jerame Tuman (hamstring) and safety Troy Polamalu (shoulder). Probable are receiver Hines Ward (hamstring), tackle Max Starks (knee) and receiver Nate Washington (knee). Tuman will practice Wednesday. Polamalu hurt his shoulder in the Dolphins game, but Cowher doesn't know when. … The decision to deactivate the team's supposed punt returner, Willie Reid, had to do with a numbers problem, according to Cowher, who couldn't find a way to dress six receivers. ... Batch's passer rating is 126.5. Willie Parker's 115 rushing yards ranks second in the AFC behind LaDainian Tomlinson (131) and fourth in the NFL behind Warrick Dunn (132). ... The Steelers signed WR Walter Young to their practice squad and released QB Omar Jacobs.

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