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fordfixer
08-01-2010, 12:32 AM
Surviving Ben Roethlisberger's ban is big priority for Steelers

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football ... port_N.htm (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2010-07-31-steelers-camp-report_N.htm)

By Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY
LATROBE, Pa. — Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the first snaps with the first offense in the Pittsburgh Steelers' first training camp practice Saturday. One of the first questions asked of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians: Was there a message in that?

"He's our quarterback. Everybody else is fighting for a job," Arians said.

"We'll switch it every day because he's got to get with these young receivers, and the other guys have to get with veterans, like we do every year, just getting all four (quarterbacks) reps and ready to go. Each guy brings something special to the table. We could win with all four quarterbacks."

If the Steelers are going to win at the start of this season, they'll have to do without the quarterback who has helped them to a pair of Super Bowl titles.

Roethlisberger has been suspended for the first four-to-six games of the regular season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. He's in camp, looking tanned and slim. He'll be eligible to play in the preseason games. But the Steelers will have to prepare another quarterback to lead them early.

Roethlisberger was apprehensive about how he would be received by the thousands of fans who showed up for the afternoon session, the first open to the public. But he was warmly received as he walked down steps toward the practice fields with wide receiver Hines Ward.

"Hines and I walked out together, and they cheered pretty loud, so it was fun," said Roethlisberger. " … I was a little nervous and scared about it, but it was neat to hear everybody cheering."

The cheers continued as he completed passes during practice, and fans shouted his name and crowded around after as he signed autographs for about a half hour on jerseys, photos, footballs, helmets and more. He removed each of his shoes, signed each one and handed them over a fence to youngsters.

"The fans were warm and loving. That's how I knew they would be — or hoped they would be," said Roethlisberger.

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The front-runner to replace Roethlisberger is eighth-year pro Bryon Leftwich. He followed Roethlisberger in the practice rotation Saturday and took roughly the same number of snaps. Third-year pro Dennis Dixon also took turns, and 13-year vet Charlie Batch watched.

Leftwich shrugged off questions about the rotation.

"All I know is that the guy who's got to be ready, he'll be ready," said Leftwich. "Counting all the reps is irrelevant right now. We're all rotating, getting some with the ones (first team), some with the twos (second team). … I'll be ready when it's called upon."'

The Steelers aren't tipping their hand on how the quarterbacks will be used in the preseason games. But as the regular season approaches, the workload figures to shift to the quarterback who will start when it's time to play for keeps.

"We are going to be somewhat non-rhythmic of course," says coach Mike Tomlin.

"We are going to make sure that by the end of this thing, Ben has had a productive camp. But as we proceed at this juncture our focus of course is on who is going to be playing quarterback for us the week of the opener.

"I like where those guys are right now, Charlie Batch included. We are not going to lock ourselves down to any prescribed rotation."

Roethlisberger welcomed the chance to run the first team on Saturday.

"It felt good," he said. "I talked to B.A. (Arians) a little bit, so I kind of was hoping that nothing had changed. We had talked about that before, but it felt good to be able to get in there with the first group and linemen and the receivers and running back. Everyone in there said it was good to have me in there. So it felt pretty special."

But he knows that it was just one day.

"You guys probably know about as much as I do. We're just taking it one day at a time. Tomorrow could be completely different. We have no idea and probably won't know until meetings tonight or maybe in the morning, I'm not sure," he said.

Roethlisberger said said he is open to any role.

"I'm helping any and all the quarterbacks, the young receivers, tight ends, running backs," he said. "Byron and I are communicating a lot about different things that we see out there. … So whatever rotation they want me to do. I'd run the scout team if they wanted me to. It wouldn't matter to me."

AROUND STEELERS TRAINING CAMP

•The scene: The marriage is long between the Steelers and Saint Vincent College. For the 45th year, the Steelers are training here in the foothills of the Alleghenies at the Catholic liberal arts college. Tomlin and team president Art Rooney II have given commencement addresses at the school. Team chairman Dan Rooney holds an honorary doctoral degree from Saint Vincent. One campus dorm is Rooney Hall. In the Steelers' 25th year at Saint Vincent, then-coach Chuck Noll conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony in the Stars and Stripes Forever in an outdoor concert at the school. "The road to the Super Bowl for the Pittsburgh Steelers has started six times at Saint Vincent, and we all look forward to another exciting journey this season," says Brother Norman W. Hipps of the Order of Saint Benedict, first-year president of Saint Vincent.

•Reason to believe: For all of their offseason troubles, most notably but not limited to Roethlisberger, the Steelers still have a history of getting it done. The six Super Bowl trophies at their team complex on Pittsburgh's South Side attest to that.

•Trouble spots: Roethlisberger's suspension dominated the offseason, but the Steelers also traded away receiver Santonio Holmes and lost starting right tackle Willie Colon to an Achilles tendon injury. That subtracts three key offensive starters.

•Who's new: They aren't exactly new, but quarterback Byron Leftwich, cornerback Bryant McFadden, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El and linebacker Larry Foote have been brought back after stints elsewhere. New coaches to watch: Sean Kugler (offensive line) and Al Everest (special teams). Both will preside over key areas that require bolstering.

•Job opening: With Colon out, the Steelers figured to have one at right tackle. But on the eve of training camp, they signed free-agent Flozell Adams, a veteran of 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and a five-time Pro Bowler. Though he was a left tackle in Dallas, Adams worked with Pittsburgh's first unit at right tackle in his the first practice Saturday. If Adams is not the answer, other candidates could include Trai Essex (a sixth-year pro currently at right guard), Jonathan Scott (fifth year) and recently signed Adrian Jones (sixth year).

•On the mend: Defensive end Aaron Smith is coming off shoulder surgery. Safety Troy Polamalu played in only five games last season due to knee injuries.

•Rookie watch: First-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey could start at right guard. With Santonio Holmes gone, WRs Emmanuel Sanders (third round) and Antonio Brown (sixth round) will get a chance to show what they bring. One question is whether RB Jonathan Dwyer (sixth round) will emerge as a compliment to starter Rashard Mendenhall. Dwyer is a 235-pounder. He figures to be tested in camp in goal-line situations against the first defense.