Steelers fill-in QB derby gets started; Sweed injured
Monday, May 03, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As three quarterbacks jockeyed in Steelers minicamp to take his place for at least the first four games of the season, Ben Roethlisberger spent the weekend in a clinic being evaluated per order of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Roethlisberger's behavioral evaluation will take "days" according to a Steelers source rather than weeks. Depending on how that evaluation by specialists goes, he either could return to the team or be asked to return to the clinic for further evaluation.
Goodell, as part of the suspension he levied two weeks ago, ordered Roethlisberger to stay away from the Steelers' South Side facility until his mandated evaluation is complete. Once done, he may rejoin the team for its spring training and through training camp before the suspension starts.
The Steelers do not know when Roethlisberger might rejoin them for workouts. Coach Mike Tomlin ended a three-day required minicamp with a short workout Sunday, although it proved costly when star-crossed wide receiver Limas Sweed crumpled with an Achilles tendon injury to his left foot that appears serious.
Players will resume lifting weights and working out, but Tomlin has scheduled the next practice for May 18 as part of the allowed 14 organized team activities. If Roethlisberger's evaluation is completed, he could return to practice then.
"I have talked to him," Tomlin said. "I will continue to talk to him, and I don't have a crystal ball in regards to when he's going to be back in the facility. A lot of that has to do with the things he needs to do and of course the judgment of the commissioner."
Either way, Tomlin must select one of three quarterbacks to start the season in place of Roethlisberger. Byron Leftwich took snaps with the first team for all five minicamp practices, with Dennis Dixon second and Charlie Batch third.
Tomlin said all three are in the running but added he started with Leftwich because it was his first practices back with them after spending the past season with Tampa Bay.
"I wanted to give him as many opportunities to reacquaint him to this environment, some of the people that he works with in that group and so forth," Tomlin said. "The other guys will be given opportunities, no question.
"Byron is a sharp guy. He has reacquainted himself to our environment rather quickly, interacting with teammates, understanding the offensive concepts, being able to communicate those things. He's doing a nice job, as are the other guys. We got a long process here for the rest of the offseason. We're looking forward to watching those guys work and find rhythm with receivers and so forth, and just continuing to grow."
At some point, Tomlin will name a quarterback to start the season.
"There will be a time, but it won't be a time in the near future," he said "There's no need for it to be. The purpose of the offseason is to instruct. Organized team activity days are just that. They're for teaching."
The bad luck continued for Sweed, who left the final minicamp practice with the foot injury.
Sweed, the team's second-round draft pick in 2008, was mounting a comeback from some emotional issues that caused the Steelers to place him on injured reserve for the final two games of last season.
He was taken to a hospital on crutches after practice.
The Steelers drafted the 6-foot-4 Sweed from Texas. He caught eight passes as a rookie, including two in the playoffs, but he dropped too many passes, including a potential long touchdown pass when he was wide open against Baltimore in the AFC championship game.
Last season, rookie Mike Wallace surpassed Sweed to establish himself as the No. 3 receiver. Sweed rarely played; he did not dress for four of the first seven games and caught one pass all season. Again, he dropped what would have been a 34-yard touchdown pass, standing alone in the end zone, in a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati.
As part of his fresh start, Sweed had changed uniform numbers, taking 80 this spring.
Linebacker James Harrison returned for the final minicamp practice after attending an uncle's funeral in Akron, Ohio. ... Receiver Hines Ward did not practice after Friday morning because of a strained hamstring. ... Center Justin Hartwig had limited practice after having "cleanup" surgery on a shoulder this year. "He's done a nice job with the rehabilitation," Tomlin said. "He's starting to get his weight back; he's really doing well."
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at http://www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com.
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