Steelers Wednesday Notebook:

Ben Roethlisberger wants to step up as a leader; Brett Keisel's hopeful of a return; and the intensity was up at today's practice.

PITTSBURGH – Taking his cue perhaps from Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger's decided to take a more active leadership role – vocally – with his offensive teammates.

But he won't do it exactly the way Brady did it Sunday night.

"I respect Tom a lot," said Roethlisberger. "But I'm not going to cuss my guys out on the sideline and get animated like he does. Everyone has their own way of motivating."

Roethlisberger said he and Hines Ward exchanged texts this week and came to the realization that "it's time for us, the veteran guys, leaders who've been around here for awhile and played late-season ball, post-season ball, to lead the guys who've only done it once or twice, or never; kind of we have to show them how to do this.

"So it's good," Roethlisberger continued. "I think that's the re-focus that he and I have that we can hopefully show other people by it on the field, in the meeting room, stuff like that."

If he wasn't influenced by Brady, Roethlisberger surely was motivated by the Steelers' poor offensive performance against New England. Even before Ward left the game for good with a concussion at the end of the first quarter, Roethlisberger and the Steelers were stuck in the mud. He'd completed only 1 of 5 passes for 16 yards and was sacked 2 times for losses of 17 yards. In three possessions, the Steelers had 1 first down and 5 yards total offense.

Roethlisberger moved the team a bit without Ward, but still finished with his worst first half – lows of 50.0 passer rating, 3 sacks, 3 points – in his five games. And he did it at home against the league's 29th–ranked defense.

He and Ward figured it's time for a change.

"He brought up the leadership thing," Roethlisberger said. "I said, ‘Well listen it's us. We need to do this together. I need you as much as you need me. We all need to do it together.' It was a good talk."

"We've got to start playing better ball," said Ward. "We've got to come together as a close-knit group."

What to expect from Roethlisberger?

"I pull guys aside and talk to them," he said. "It's time maybe now at this point in the season to transition into being more of a vocal guy, as well as leading by example."

THE DIESEL REPORT

Defensive end Brett Keisel worked lightly Wednesday – individual drills only – for the first time since aggravating his hamstring injury in Cincinnati.

"Don't want déjà vu," he said. "But there's a chance. There's a chance."

Keisel hopes to return Sunday after missing three of the last four games. He aggravated the injury by returning too soon 10 nights ago in Cincinnati.

"I felt good in warm-ups. That was the weirdest thing," he said. "I felt good warming up. I felt good doing my regular routine. I just went out there and it went right away. It's just one of those things that you don't understand sometimes."

The problem with hamstring injuries is that recovery can't truly be measured unless the muscle is used at full speed, when there's a risk of re-injury. Keisel said his instincts warned him against letting loose in Cincinnati.

"I should've listened to myself," he said. "Your teammates want you back; you want to be back. That's what my job is, to be out there on Sundays."

Keisel has made one change in his re-hab.

"I've pretty much stopped the massages," he said. "I'm just kind of letting nature do it. I was doing all that the first time I hurt it. I don't know if that hurt it at all. As far as the healing process goes, I'm just trying to let nature handle it."

PRACTICE REPORT

The Steelers worked in pads Wednesday, a change from the recent protocol in which players simply walked through their plays. The pads were on and the intensity was up.

"We were amped up," said defensive captain James Farrior. "After we got messed with last week it was good to see everybody focused in and really go in and get back to work.

"You've got to change things around when you get beat like that."

Missing the practice with injury concerns were backup S Will Allen (concussion), DE Nick Eason (illness), backup DT Steve McLendon (illness), SS Troy Polamalu (sore Achilles' tendon), and DE Aaron Smith (triceps).

Limited in practice were Keisel, reserve CB Crezdon Butler (quadriceps), LG Chris Kemoeatu (ankle) and LB Lawrence Timmons (hips).

Ward (concussion) was a full participant.

Missing the Oakland Raiders' practice were WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) and Chaz Shilens (knee). Limited were CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), John Henderson (foot) and TE Zach Miller (foot).


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