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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Steeler show must go on

BY ED BOUCHETTE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Steelers Charlie Batch, left, and Mike Logan leave Pittsburgh s Mercy Hospital.
Steelers Charlie Batch, left, and Mike Logan leave Pittsburgh s Mercy Hospital.
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PITTSBURGH - The Campbell's Soup commercial will go on, just without Ben Roethlisberger playing his role in it for a while, one of the minor consequences of the quarterback's motorcycle accident yesterday.

The Steelers' reaction to Roethlisberger's accident went from shock and concern yesterday morning to cautious relief by mid-afternoon when it was learned not only were his injuries not life threatening but that it might be possible for him to start the first game of the season Sept. 7.

"First, it's good to see he's not in bad shape, as a friend, and to make sure he's OK," Jerome Bettis said. "Another good thing is it is minor enough that it shouldn't affect him on the field this fall."

The Steelers issued a statement by club president Art Rooney that expressed concern for the quarterback but "we have been encouraged by the early reports from the medical team at Mercy Hospital." The Steelers had no other official word on the matter.

But the team from Campbell's Chunky Soup, scheduled to film a $2 million commercial with Roethlisberger, his mother and six of his teammates, planned to go ahead with some scenes around some of those teammates. Offensive tackle Max Starks and guard Kendall Simmons were to be part of that shoot with Starks' mother standing in, for the moment, in Brenda Roethlisberger's role. They hope to film Roethlisberger and his mother later.

Guard Alan Faneca, who was to be part of that commercial, expressed relief that reports were upbeat about Roethlisberger's condition.

"My first reaction was hoping he was OK," Faneca said. "It's a serious thing when you're in an accident, much less on a motorcycle."

When he heard about the accident, Faneca said his thoughts turned to how much Roethlisberger and the Steelers were on top of the world the previous weekend when they visited the White House on a Friday and received their Super Bowl rings on Sunday.

"Here we are a week and a day ago getting our rings, celebrating and having a good time. The next second, you're in a bad accident. It brings you back down to earth."

Faneca said it's only natural to wonder how the accident might affect the football team this year but "it's secondary, considering his overall health. That [football] is something to worry about down the line."

Bettis did not hesitate to describe the effect it would have on the Steelers were Roethlisberger not able to play.

"He's the heart and soul of the team. We've been able to win a lot of games throughout the time I was there, but never did we have a quarterback who can do the things he can do.

"It changes the football team from a good football team to a champion. To lose a guy like that would cripple the franchise."

Roethlisberger had finished two interviews yesterday morning and was apparently on his way to the Steelers' headquarters on the South Side, where he was scheduled for another. He was on ESPN's national Mike & Mike show between 8 and 8:30 yesterday morning and then taped an interview at 9 a.m. for a local ESPN station.

Backup quarterback Charlie Batch joined safety Mike Logan at Mercy Hospital, although they were not allowed to see Roethlisberger at the time. Batch planned to return last night.

"That's always the No. 1 thing, not his football career, but just his life in general," Batch said.

"After that everything is secondary."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Ed Bouchette is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.



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