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Maddox may start for Pittsburgh on Sunday vs. Ravens

PITTSBURGH -- Tommy Maddox may go from being a fill-in
starter to a No. 3 quarterback to a backup to a fill-in starter
again, all in slightly more than a month's time.

Maddox, who lost his starter's job a year ago to Ben Roethlisberger and his backup job this season to poor performance,
took the majority of the snaps with the Pittsburgh Steelers'
offense Wednesday in practice and could start Sunday in Baltimore.

Roethlisberger still hopes to play after missing two games
following knee surgery Nov. 3, but said he can't be 100 percent by
Sunday. Coach Bill Cowher has already warned him about rushing
back.

"Coach said if you go out there too early and get hurt, it
negates the whole purpose of having the surgery," said
Roethlisberger, who had damaged cartilage removed from his right
knee Nov. 3. "We're going to be smart about it. I'm not going to
go out there if I can't protect myself, and put the team in
jeopardy."

An understandable approach, given Pittsburgh's track record for
keeping quarterbacks healthy against the Ravens (2-7), having had
their starting quarterback hurt the last three times they've played
Baltimore.

Three weeks ago, Roethlisberger had surgery following a 20-19
win over Baltimore in which he aggravated a right knee injury that
occurred in the season opener. Roethlisberger became the starter a
year ago when Maddox hurt his right elbow at Baltimore, and
Roethlisberger later sat out a meaningless end-of-season game at
Buffalo after injuring a rib against the Ravens.

"I guess it would make for a good story, but, for me, it's
another game against another tough opponent," Maddox said of
playing against the team that put him out of his starting job.

Maddox has been waiting to play since throwing three
interceptions, one for the game-deciding touchdown, and losing a
fumble in a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville on Oct. 16.
Afterward, he didn't endear himself to the fans or to Cowher when
he partly blamed the wind and the mistakes of others for his bad
game.

His agent also may have worsened the situation by complaining
that Maddox's front yard had been vandalized and that Maddox's
children had been harassed, allegations later denied by Maddox's
wife, Jennifer.

After that, Maddox endured the confidence-deflating
embarrassment of being dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart behind
Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch only 13 months after being the
starter.

"The way this business goes, when you get knocked down or don't
play very well, you're excited to go back out on the field,"
Maddox said. "Normally, you get to get back out the next week, but
it's harder when you have to wait a little bit."

Maddox still wouldn't be playing if Batch hadn't broken a bone
in his right hand during a 34-21 victory over Cleveland on Sunday.
Maddox filled in during the second half, but threw only seven
passes with the Steelers up by big margins.

Maddox's confidence may have taken a hit against Jacksonville,
but he said he won't be tentative or lacking in confidence when he
plays again.

"Anytime you don't play the way you think you should, or you
play poorly, you're anxious to get back out there. When you don't
get a chance to go back out, it sits on you a little bit," he
said. "I've been around a long time and been through a lot of
different situations, so it's not where you're going to let one
game ruin your confidence."

Wide receiver Hines Ward said he would have no reluctance going
into Baltimore with Maddox starting, just as Maddox did in 2002 and
2003.

"He's still a great quarterback, and I had some great years
with Tommy. It's just a matter of getting his confidence back,"
Ward said.

Another reason the Steelers might be reluctant to bring back
Roethlisberger this week: left tackle Marvel Smith, who protects
the quarterbacks' blind side, is questionable with a sore ankle.
Barrett Brooks and rookie Trai Essex spent time at his position
Wednesday.