A week ago, when it was revealed Ben Roethlisberger had undergone appendectomy surgery, Byron Leftwich joked of his friend and fellow Mid-American Conference quarterback, "He keeps ducking me."
Now there would seem to be some doubt as to whether Roethlisberger is going to "duck" Leftwich for a second consecutive year. Steelers coach Bill Cowher told reporters on Tuesday that Roethlisberger will be listed on the team's injury report as "questionable" and that Roethlisberger will practice on Wednesday and Cowher will determine whether or not Roethlisberger plays against the Jaguars based on how Roethlisberger practices.
In other words, it sounds like "Big Ben" isn't gonna "duck" his buddy in Jacksonville this year.
"Pittsburgh is going to do what Pittsburgh does. They have two (quarterbacks) capable of winning football games," Leftwich said when asked what his thoughts were on Roethlisberger and his replacement in a week-one win over Miami, Charlie Batch.
Roethlisberger has become the football equivalent of a crash dummy. Following a motorcycle accident in early June that caused Roethlisberger seven hours of plastic surgery on his face, Roethlisberger recovered quickly enough to get a round of celebrity golf in before the start of training camp. Now, it appears as though he's going to do his watch-me-heal-before-your-very-eyes routine for the second time in three months. His appendix is out and the stitches are still in, but Roethlisberger may be under center at Alltel Stadium on Monday night.
Roethlisberger didn't play against the Jaguars last season, when the Steelers lost in overtime to the visitors. Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis was the star of that game, intercepting a Tommy Maddox pass and returning it 41 yards for a walk-off-home-run touchdown.
"I guess you could call it that. It was a special moment," Mathis said following practice on Tuesday.
The Steelers' first practice of the week will be on Wednesday. The Jaguars will treat Wednesday as an off day and make Thursday their "normal Wednesday."
"They're going to come ready to play regardless," Mathis said when asked if it matters whether Roethlisberger or Batch is under center. "It doesn't matter to us at all."
The Steelers may be willing to "rush" Roethlisberger back into the lineup because they play division rival Cincinnati the following Sunday. They'd like, of course, for Roethlisberger to have a game "under his belt" before they play the Bengals.
Leftwich's concern is for the Steelers defense. It is one of the most active and aggressive in the league and it employs sophisticated schemes intended to force opposing quarterbacks into mistakes.
"They have to have very good coaches and very smart players to do what they do. They're one of the few teams that plays 100 miles per hour. We're fortunate that we have some experience against these guys," Leftwich said.
The last time the two teams played against each other in Jacksonville was late in the 2004 season, when Roethlisberger was a red-hot rookie and Leftwich was a second-year quarterback trying to get his team into the playoffs. Roethlisberger led his offense down the field inside the two-minute warning and to a game-winning field goal with 18 seconds to play.
"I remember it being a physical football game from the first play. Everybody that watched that game appreciated that," Leftwich said.