Steelers Team Report

Ben Roethlisberger, along with the rest of his teammates, is on vacation, taking some much-needed R&R after 31/2 months working out at the team's facility, where he began his work in February.

The NFL offensive Rookie of the Year has taken on more of a leadership role this spring

Last year, he was throwing to the backup receivers as the No. 3 or No. 4 quarterback. He did not did not move up to No. 2 until training camp when Charlie Batch's knee was injured. It wasn't until he replaced injured Tommy Maddox in the second game of the season that he got to practice with the starters on a regular basis. His extended work this spring and in training camp should build up his rapport and confidence with his receivers.

Pittsburgh coaches also worked with Roethlisberger to improve on his selection process and the way defenses played him differently toward the end of last season.

"Late in the season they were dropping a lot of people and trying to make him throw it into smaller windows," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "Whereas people were coming after us earlier in the season and he was escaping pressure and making big plays.

"I think certainly from what I've seen so far this spring, he's a lot more comfortable going through his progressions and going through his reads. When he's comfortable throwing the football, he's hard to stop."

Not coincidentally, perhaps, Roethlisberger's interception rate grew in the final five games, including two playoffs. He threw 10 interceptions in those five games after tossing only six in his first 101/2 games.

Defenses will be tempted to follow through on the strategies that were effective against the young quarterback next season.

"Some people may think that," Whisenhunt said. "I think people may try to do some things to us, from looking at last year's tape, but he's going to be a different quarterback, and I don't necessarily think those same things are going to hold up.

"I would certainly think he's dangerous when he's out of the pocket. You know what? I'm very encouraged when he's in the pocket. He was a very good pocket passer in college and he certainly has the arm and the ability to do that on this level."

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