Notebook: Big crowd wowed

LATROBE – An estimated crowd of 10,000 flocked to St. Vincent College yesterday to see 1) Rookie franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and 2) Second of three scheduled goal-line drills in training camp.

Neither disappointed.

Roethlisberger flashed his immense potential by rolling right and throwing a 40-yard bullet to Antwaan Randle El during a portion of the team scrimmage. If was one of the rare occasions in which Roethlisberger has showed off his strong arm since he's being coached to throw sideways to the fullback more often than not.

The planned highlight of the day, however, was the goal-line drill, and once again the defense stuffed the offense on four running plays.

In eight first-team plays overall, the offense has run eight times. At least they moved the ball to the 1-yard line Saturday.

"It's progress," said Bill Cowher. "It's OK. And I told Kenny (Whisenhunt) I can't wait to see our first pass. We haven't seen it yet in two goal-line scrimmages. He's making a very heavy statement and I'm enjoying it."

The offense was set back by a fumbled snap on second down. On third-and-goal from the seven, cornerback Deshea Townsend mockingly yelled out, "Go four wides." But the Steelers didn't use any wide receivers and handed the ball to Verron Haynes, who plowed over the left side for a 6-yard gain. He was stopped on fourth down from the one.

Linebacker Joey Porter believes a return to defensive prominence is underway.

"We've got to get back to flying around and taking the field with a swagger. If it starts off with us doing it against our offense, then so be it," Porter said. "We had too many letdowns last year and never really played up to our capabilities. Right now, I think the team is getting that swagger back. The young guys are playing with a lot of enthusiasm. We've got a lot of speed out there. We need all the momentum we can get going into the season."

The second-team offense scored a touchdown for the second time. Running back Dante Brown covered the five yards in two carries. He followed pulling guard Keydrick Vincent into the end zone, and Vincent promptly lifted Brown high off the ground in celebration.

"We went through the first week and I think the best thing about it is we got through it somewhat healthy outside of the normal nicks and aches this time at camp," said Cowher.

The size was estimated at 10,000 by the Steelers' PR staff, which swept through the media to promote the number as if it were a Pitt home game. The crowd may not have been quite that size, but Hines Ward was impressed.
"We had some crowds like this after our playoff years," Ward said. "I remember that whole hill was packed and they had people out on the field at the same time. But this is great. Just knowing that we have support after a disappointing year, 6-10, this is doubled what we had last year and it really means a lot to us players."

"You don't realize how much the players draw from the energy," said Cowher. "This is one of the best showings we've had in recent years, today and yesterday. Really, almost every afternoon we come out there there's two or three thousand people and I think it was well beyond that today. We really appreciate it."

Along with Kendrick Clancy (calf) and Jerame Tuman (elbow), Chris Hope (shoulder), Eric Taylor (hamstring) and Jay Riemersma (groin) remain sidelines. Rookie linebacker Dedrick Roper hyperextended his knee during practice and could miss a few days. … Alonzo Jackson sucker-punched lineman Morgan Pears well after a play during line drills and the two engaged in a slap fest that was supported later by Cowher. … Is the organization concerned about the poor blocking of the tight ends lately? Well, Cowher, Kevin Colbert, both coordinators, the tight ends coach, both linebackers coaches, a referee, two scouts, a trainer, seven reporters, a water boy, the strength coach, a PR assistant and a member of the crowd control staff watched the tight ends block the linebackers in a one-on-one drill yesterday. It was one of eight sessions taking place simultaneously on the field. Why was seemingly half the organization watching? "We had a chance to see (rookie free agent) Bobby Blizzard," explained Cowher. "He was hurt the last time and he held his own pretty good."

Cowher on the cool weather: "You'd like to see some more heat come in here. The last time I looked we're going to be playing in Miami and I don't think it's going to be 60 degrees down there the third week of the season."

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