PITTSBURGH (Nov. 17, 2005) -- Tommy Maddox went from being the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback to No. 3 on the depth chart in barely a year's time. Despite a steep slide that admittedly tested his confidence, he always felt he would start again.
What he didn't know was it would be this soon.
With Ben Roethlisberger still not ready to return from a knee injury, Maddox will be the Steelers' quarterback Nov. 20 in Baltimore -- the third starter in a month for a team that has won its last four games.
Coach Bill Cowher said that Roethlisberger could be in uniform as the backup after sitting out victories against Green Bay and Cleveland started by Charlie Batch. But Maddox will start for the first time since turning the ball over four times in a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville on Oct. 16.
"Tommy will start and we'll see where we go from there," Cowher said. "Ben's getting a little bit better each day and we'll see where he is (Nov. 18)."
For Maddox, the important thing is knowing where he'll be in Week 11: On the field, in the same stadium where he hurt his right elbow last year, prompting Roethlisberger's sudden and unexpected promotion to starter as a rookie. Roethlisberger went on to go 13-0 as a starter and was chosen as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
"It's always nice to know and it's nice to have that out of the way and now just go and get ready for Sunday," Maddox said of not having to wait until game day for a decision. "I was preparing anyway for that, but it's nice to get that out of the way."
The Steelers (7-2) had hoped Roethlisberger would be ready this week so he could get back to game speed before important games at Indianapolis (9-0) and Cincinnati (7-2) over the following two weeks. The Steelers and Bengals are tied for the AFC North lead, and the Colts are the NFL's only undefeated team.
Maddox lost his backup job after throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble against Jacksonville - a 23-17 loss decided by an interception returned for a touchdown in overtime. Batch moved ahead of him on the depth chart after that, but Batch is out for at least a week with a broken finger in his right hand.
Roethlisberger aggravated a right knee injury in a 20-19 win over Baltimore on Oct. 31, and needed surgery three days later to remove damaged cartilage. He injured his left knee earlier in the season, causing him to miss the Jacksonville game that Maddox started.
Maddox said he prepared himself to play each week, even when Roethlisberger and Batch were ahead of him.
Good idea, since the Steelers have had their starting QB hurt each of the last three times they've played Baltimore.
"You know that you've got to prepare, you know that crazy things happen in this league and I knew sooner or later I'd get a chance to go back on the field," Maddox said. "I didn't know when that time would be, but I kept trying to work hard and prepare for this opportunity."
Now, wide receiver Hines Ward said the rest of the Steelers must help Maddox regain the confidence he had as the starter in 2002 and 2003 but may have lost during one of worst games ever by a Pittsburgh quarterback against Jacksonville.
"He's done it before. We're not going the base the whole thing off one game. He's had bad games here and there, but it wasn't all Tommy's fault," Ward said. "I haven't lost confidence in him and I don't think the other 10 guys have, either."
Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El is taking snaps in practice and could be used at quarterback in case of injury, though Cowher doesn't want to think about that. Randle El set several NCAA records at Indiana and remains the only Division I-A quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards and rush for 3,000 in a career.
"I haven't really looked that far. You're talking about a fourth quarterback," Cowher said. "I'm not sure at this point. I'd have to take a pool on the sideline."
Cowher also said running back Willie Parker is expected to start against the Ravens (2-7) after missing a 34-21 win Nov. 13 over Cleveland with a sprained ankle. But a decision has not yet been made about left tackle Marvel Smith, who is questionable because of a sore ankle.