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Roethlisberger, Ward miss practice again

PITTSBURGH (Oct. 13, 2005) -- Ben Roethlisberger isn't the Pittsburgh Steelers' only injury worry with an Oct. 16 game against Jacksonville approaching. Wide receiver Hines Ward missed practice for a second successive day with a nagging hamstring injury.

If Roethlisberger and Ward can't practice Oct. 14 -- and neither player has been on the field since a 24-22 victory Oct. 10 in San Diego -- it seems unlikely they will play. Most weeks, the Steelers require a player to practice at least once before a game to play, though coach Bill Cowher said he does not have a blanket policy.

"It's case by case," Cowher said. "Obviously, if you have somebody who hasn't practiced all week, you have to take that into account. We are just going to look at all the circumstances and go from there."

Roethlisberger, whose left knee became hyperextended during the Steelers' game-winning final drive Oct. 10, did some light jogging and throwing but did not practice. Still, that was an improvement from Oct. 12, when he was on crutches for most of the day.

Roethlisberger remains doubtful -- meaning there is only a 25 percent chance he will play -- while Ward is questionable. Ward also was questionable leading into the Chargers game, but played and made six catches for 83 yards.

But the short work week between games isn't helping Ward and, Cowher said, "It becomes a concern" when a player can't practice.

It wasn't Ward's day -- even if it was. He was honored during Hines Ward Day ceremonies in nearby Washington, Pa., which named him its honorary mayor and gave him the key to the city, an honor previously reserved for dignitaries such as former presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

Cowher did get favorable injury news: Roethlisberger's backup, Tommy Maddox (calf), was upgraded from questionable to probable. That means he could start ahead of No. 3 quarterback Charlie Batch, who hasn't started a game in four years, if Roethlisberger can't go.

When Maddox was hurt in practice Oct. 7, the Steelers expected him to be out for three to four weeks.

"He appears to be very good, and Ben feels a lot better than he did yesterday (Wednesday)," Cowher said.

Regardless of what happens in practice Oct. 14, Cowher probably won't designate a starting quarterback until game time, if only to force the Jaguars to prepare for one of three possible starters.

Willie Parker will make his fifth consecutive start at running back, despite being replaced by Jerome Bettis during most of the second half in San Diego. Bettis ran for 54 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown in his first game action since the 2004 playoffs, not counting the preseason.

Parker, who ran for 272 yards against the losing-record Titans and Texans to start the season, was limited to 26 yards on 10 carries by San Diego and has 81 yards on 27 carries in his past two starts.

AP NEWS
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