On the first pass he threw Tuesday in his first post-suspension practice, Roethlisberger found fast wide receiver Mike Wallace far downfield for an over-the-shoulder catch of a perfectly thrown football.
Right about then, his teammates probably were thinking the same thing: Ben is back.
“We have our whole team here, and we have our leader _ our quarterback _ back with us,” Wallace said. “He makes everybody better. The offense is definitely going to go in another direction.”
Roethlisberger showed no rustiness or lack of rhythm in his first practice since training camp, zipping passes throughout a 30-minute passing drill that was incorporated into the practice to quickly get him and his receivers back in sync.
“It was a good step, and I don’t think it’ll take as long as I thought,” Roethlisberger said.
He’ll have two more practice days during this bye week to regain his timing and precision, followed by a full work week before the Oct. 17 home game against Cleveland.
“It normally takes a while to get going out there, but it felt pretty good,” Roethlisberger said. “I knew that my arm would be good. I knew it would be strong, and I knew it would feel good. It’s just a matter of working with the guys.”
Since last being with the team on Sept. 2, Roethlisberger threw almost daily to a collection of receivers at high school stadiums, intentionally throwing more passes than normal because he wasn’t throwing any in games. A private quarterbacks coach helped him with his footwork and delivery.
“We’re going to throw the ball because we’ve got one of the best guys back,” Wallace said. “So I’m excited. I’ve been smiling. Ever since last night, I’ve been smiling.”
Despite having the league’s No. 31 passing offense with fill-in quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon, the Steelers came out of Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension about as good as could be expected with a 3-1 record. Apparently, the quarterback himself came out of the suspension about as good as could be expected, too.
By playing as well as they did without the two-time Super Bowl winner, the Steelers put aside any doubts about how Roethlisberger would be welcomed back. Potentially, there could have been hard feelings if his off-field problems had led to an 0-4 start, but his teammates insisted they’ve long since put the quarterback’s troubles behind them.
Roethlisberger apologized to them during offseason workouts for potentially jeopardizing their season and, by the time training camp arrived, he was warmly received by fans.
Now, seven months after Roethlisberger was accused of, but not charged with, sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman at a Georgia college bar, the Steelers hope there finally is some closure of the issue from a football standpoint. Even if no one is defending Roethlisberger’s behavior or the stress he caused an organization that has long taken pride in the way it conducts itself.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
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