Ben scoffs at jinx talk

LATROBE - Ben Roethlisberger breezed through his first run test Monday with the greatest of ease, and then he met with the media with a similar cool.

The defending NFL Rookie of the Year was asked for his thoughts about the legendary sophomore jinx.

"Well," said the Steelers' quarterback as he surveyed the mob, "all you guys think I'm going to have it, so I'm not going to."

Roethlisberger used one of his best and newest friends, Dan Marino, as an example. Marino quarterbacked the Miami Dolphins to his only Super Bowl appearance as a second-year quarterback.

"Dan and I have actually spent a lot of time together the last month," Roethlisberger said. "(We spent) probably about two or three weeks of the month, talking and hanging out and just spending some time and picking his brain. I do know how he did, but I also know how his career ended."

Marino never won a Super Bowl, something Roethlisberger believes the Steelers can achieve this season, even if they don't match last year's record.

"I can be a better quarterback and not win 15 games," he said. "We just have to make sure that people understand that and realize that. We can still win a Super Bowl and not win 15 games."

Roethlisberger will confirm that with Marino tonight on the phone. The two became friends last year at Mario Lemieux's golf tournament. This year they spent time together at Marino's golf tournament at Tahoe.

"I kind of became friends with his sons and he just became like a mentor and father to me," Roethlisberger said. "We talked quite a bit. I'm actually going to give him a call tonight. I know he's going to Cancun so I'm going to give him a call."

Roethlisberger handled his first run test with aplomb. He missed it last season because of a 3-day holdout.

"I thought it was going to be a lot tougher than that," he said. "I thought I was going to be in trouble, but I guess the running preparation I did got me through it."

Roethlisberger appears to be in great shape, which is more than can be said about the Steelers' offense. Thirty-something running backs Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley skipped the test as a precaution against injury; and last year's starting wide receivers, Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward, are far from St. Vincent College.

Burress signed with the New York Giants in the off-season and Ward is holding out. The run test was the first on-field activity Ward has missed.

"Obviously it's going to affect the offense with him being such an integral part," Roethlisberger said. "But just like in the season, when you need a big play to come through you can count on Hines, and I know that when we need him we'll be able to count on Hines again. He'll be here."

Roethlisberger showed off his speed by consistently winning his heat during the series of 14 40-yard sprints. Even his coach was impressed.

"He's a little heavier but he looks faster. He's worked out hard," said Bill Cowher, who's convinced Roethlisberger will improve his game as well.

"He's going to go through his progressions. He's going to find the open guy. The bottom line is that it's a comfort level he has running this offense. A year ago, he wouldn't even look up in the huddle. He'd be calling the plays, and I'm not sure he even knew he was in a huddle. He was looking down, reading his wrist. I think the comfort level that he is at is most important."

"I'm excited to be out here," said Roethlisberger. "Coming out here, being on the grass and seeing all the guys, being around them again, has really just got the juices flowing and it's hard to believe Year Two is here already."

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