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Big Ben sending signals?


Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is sending signals that he may be in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Jaguars.

"You never want to sit, regardless what it is. I always want to be there for my team. I'm one of the guys, I want them to always know they can count on me, so I'm going to do everything I can to be out there and be ready for them," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday.

Roethlisberger did not participate in Wednesday's practice, but he was off his crutches and planned to be a limited participant in Thursday's practice. Backups Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox each practiced on Wednesday. Maddox is listed as "questionable" on the Steelers injury report with a right calf strain.

What about Roethlisberger, though? He's the top-rated passer in the NFL, but he sustained what was first thought to be a serious knee injury in the final moments of the Steelers' win in San Diego on Monday night. The injury was diagnosed on Tuesday to be a hyperextension and bone bruise, causing Steelers coach Bill Cowher to list Roethlisberger as "doubtful" on the team's injury report. Now, it sounds as though Roethlisberger's status could be upgraded.

"When you have a tough guy, you have to give him every opportunity to get back into the game," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said on Wednesday. "It looked like it would be sore. The joint is not meant to go that way."

In just his second year in the league, Roethlisberger has already established a Lazarus-like reputation for rising from the "grave." He was carted off the practice field the week of his first pro start last year. He was knocked senseless in the second week of this season and had to lie down and regain his wits at halftime, but didn't miss a play. He was, by the way, "questionable" the whole week leading up to that game.

"I don't know," Roethlisberger said when asked if he will play on Sunday. "We're going to go day by day right now; see how healthy we get. If I keep improving every day, I can at least go out and help the team any way I can. I feel very grateful and lucky there wasn't any ligament damage or (anything) severe. It's just going to be really painful right now, so, hopefully, we can get through the pain and see where we go from there."

Meanwhile, Maddox was talking as though he'll be ready to play. "I felt really good out there, ran around. I tried to push it and do everything I normally do and I did that," Maddox said. "I feel comfortable and ready to go. I've been in this offense for a long time. It's not like I need a week to try to get back in shape. I missed one practice."

All of this causes a degree of uncertainty for Del Rio in his team's preparation. Del Rio told reporters on Wednesday that he's preparing for any and all circumstances.

"'Big Ben' is the star, but the other two are very capable players," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, have listed Akin Ayodele (back), John Henderson (shoulder), Jimmy Smith (foot) and Fred Taylor (ankle) all "probable" for Sunday's game.

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