Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Roethlisberger instinctive, promising, Marino says

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - Dan Marino didn't say out loud what he was thinking in 1983, but it took him only a few games to become convinced he would be an excellent NFL quarterback. He is certain Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Ben Roethlisberger already feels the same way.

Steelers (and former Miami U.) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
(AP photo)
After hearing for weeks how his exceptional debut has reminded many of Marino's rookie season with Miami, Roethlisberger heard it from Marino himself Tuesday as the two met for a televised interview.

Marino's assessment of what already is the most talked-about Steelers rookie quarterback since Terry Bradshaw in 1970: real good now, and will get even better the longer he plays.

"A lot of the things he does kind of remind me of some of the things I was able to do when I played," Marino said. "The thing that's impressive about Ben is his awareness in the pocket, his pocket presence and his ability to move and still make throws downfield. You can't teach that kind of instincts, and that's something he has going for him that a lot of the guys in the league don't have."

Just as Marino looked and felt comfortable almost as soon as he took over for the benched David Woodley in 1983, Roethlisberger has appeared confident and well-prepared since replacing the injured Tommy Maddox on Sept. 19. He is 5-0 as a starter for the Steelers (6-1), the best start by an NFL rookie quarterback since Pittsburgh's Mike Kruczek was 6-0 in 1976.

PATRIOTS: Cornerback Ty Law will be out four to six weeks with a broken bone in his left foot, his agent told The Boston Globe.

Law was injured on Pittsburgh's second possession Sunday and did not return. Pittsburgh defeated the Patriots 34-20 to end New England's winning streak at 21 games.

Law was replaced by rookie Randall Gay, who also was hurt later in the game.

CHIEFS: Larry Johnson has been agitating all year for more playing time at running back. The Kansas City Chiefs might have no choice but to accommodate their former No. 1 pick.

Derrick Blaylock, who has passed Johnson to become Priest Holmes' top backup, is doubtful for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay because of a deep thigh bruise. That could mean a bigger role for Johnson, who was drafted out of Penn State in 2003 when the Chiefs weren't sure Holmes could return from offseason hip surgery.

Johnson touched the ball Sunday for the first time this season, in Kansas City's 45-35 victory over Indianapolis. But his lone carry, for 19 yards, came on the last play of the first half with the Colts playing deep to avoid a long pass.

Johnson could have played more, coach Dick Vermeil said, but the Chiefs needed Holmes on the field to help answer Indianapolis' second-half scoring surge.

Johnson has been inactive for several games this year and has made no effort to conceal his unhappiness.

He and Vermeil clashed earlier this year when Vermeil said Johnson should "take off the diapers" and go to work. Then last month when he was not traded by the deadline, Johnson accused Vermeil of never wanting to draft him in the first place.

But the Chiefs said they did not trade their disgruntled backup because they believe in his potential.

DOLPHINS: Even after his team's biggest loss of the season, Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said he isn't planning any lineup changes.

One, however, might be necessary - if linebacker Junior Seau is gone for the season. Seau might have torn a pectoral muscle in Monday's 41-14 loss to the New York Jets; if the injury is a tear, Seau probably will require season-ending surgery.

On the offensive side, Wannstedt plans no lineup changes. That includes quarterback, where Jay Fiedler again will start Sunday when the Dolphins (1-7) host the Arizona Cardinals.

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