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fordfixer
07-31-2010, 12:54 AM
Harris: Ben's teammates show their support
By John Harris, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, July 31, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 92816.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_692816.html)

Ben Roethlisberger braked his black MINI Cooper convertible in front of Rooney Hall at noon Friday, chauffeuring injured teammate Willie Colon and still looking for all the world like the leader of the Steelers' offense.

Roethlisberger's car was third in a caravan of six identical borrowed vehicles that began in Monroeville and also included center Justin Hartwig, right guard Trai Essex, left guard Chris Kemoeatu and left tackle Max Starks, who drove in the lead position.

Yes, Roethlisberger has a past he's trying to forget not to mention a future that doesn't include him playing in at least the first four games of the 2010 season.

But if yesterday's symbolic gesture on the opening day of training camp Roethlisberger arriving at Saint Vincent College with his buddies on the offensive line is taken at face value, Roethlisberger has the support of those teammates who are paid to watch his back on the field.

"Ben is like a brother,'' said Kemoeatu, entering his third season as a starter. "We're glad he drove up here with us.''

And this from Starks, who organized the motor tour through a local BMW dealership and insisted Roethlisberger join them: "First, they (said), 'Just drive the MINI to camp.' I said, 'No, Let's do the whole offensive line, and let's get our quarterback involved, too. Let's go with Ben.' ''

A good time was apparently had by all parties yesterday, as big, burly linemen who normally keep their intimate thoughts private shared a more public side as they joked about driving to training camp together with No. 7.

"Everybody thought we had tinted windows,'' Essex said about squeezing his ample 6-foot-5, 324-frame inside the small car, "and (were) taking up all the space.''

"It was a really fun day,'' Starks said. "It was like that moment of fun and freedom right before it gets serious.''

Roethlisberger, who spoke briefly with reporters camped outside the players' dormitory in anticipation of his arrival, tried to put the moment of levity in perspective.

In so many words, Roethlisberger seemed to be saying that coming to training camp gives him the chance to turn the page and attempt to move on with his life.

"When Willie and I were pulling in, it felt like we were just here,'' Roethlisberger said. "It's good to be back. It's all about football right now we'll focus on that. It's good to be able to put a lot of things in the offseason behind you and move on. It's about doing that and getting ready to play football. That's my No. 1 focus winning a championship.''

Roethlisberger's teammates said they didn't know if he planned to speak with the entire team about how his off-field problems could affect the Steelers on the field as wide receiver Hines Ward suggested earlier this summer nor did those questioned believe he was obligated to do so.

"That's Hines' opinion,'' nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "Hines is a leader on this team. So I think his opinion is well-respected. But it doesn't matter to me. I'm ready to play football. Everybody's ready to put this behind them.''

Added Starks: "A lot of guys could feel a different way. But, for me, I don't seek anything from Ben.''

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin refuses to discuss the details of team meetings. But Tomlin indicated he would probably have something to say about Roethlisberger when the team meets for the first time at camp.

"When we come together as a team," Tomlin said, "I'll do some talking.''

Expect Tomlin's players to do some serious listening.