Ben, Santonio safe, sound, laying low

LATROBE -- Every rookie made it to camp. So did every veteran, including the most celebrated biker in Pittsburgh history. Ben Roethlisberger showed up looking fit but he didn't talk to reporters ...

Santonio Holmes showed up with a new contract and a new attitude. He didn't speak to reporters either, but his shaved head spoke for that new attitude.

"He's off to a fresh start," said Hines Ward. "He cut his hair off. He wants to have a clean slate."

Ward spent the week working out with Holmes, the first-round pick who last night signed a five-year, $8.11 million deal that includes $4.52 million in bonus money.

Holmes was the last rookie to sign. The other rookie wide receiver, third-round pick Willie Reid, signed a three-year contract earlier Friday. It didn't matter to the players and coaches in Latrobe who are trying to low-key the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the defending champions.

"You can't win a Super Bowl in training camp," said Cedrick Wilson. "You can't win a Super Bowl in August. But we're just going to train our butts off."

Wilson said this is the best team he's ever been on, but he understands the two rookie wide receivers will be pushing him. Both Reid and Holmes run sub-4.4 40s and both are hungry to show they belong, particularly Holmes who embarrassed himself with two arrests since draft day.

Holmes was cited for disorderly conduct late one spring night in Miami and he faces criminal proceedings Aug. 15 for domestic violence charges. The woman – the mother of his youngest child – wants the charges dropped, but Holmes may still be tried by Columbus, Ohio authorities. Steelers director of operations Kevin Colbert was asked whether Holmes can maintain his focus in spite of the problems.

"I can't answer whether he will or not," Colbert said. "It remains to be seen."

Has Colbert changed his opinion of Holmes since trading up for him in the draft?

"Not at all," said Colbert, who also explained that Holmes's new contract does not contain conduct clauses.

"Really it's not our intention to have anything like that," Colbert said. "We are where we are with the player and it's up to him to take the next step and we feel comfortable he will take the correct steps from this point forward, both on the field and off the field. We're very comfortable with that."

"I hung out all week with Santonio," said Ward. "He worked out with me and he got a chance to get to know me personally. It was a great week. We went out to dinner last night. I'm looking forward to helping him come along, him and Willie Reid. I look for big things out of those two guys."

What does Ward make of Holmes's legal problems?

"It really doesn't bother me," Ward said. "He's here now. We can't worry about what he did but we can help his growth and his maturity. He's got to put in some overtime because he missed the coaching sessions, but he's hungry. He's looking forward to the challenge. He's going to be a huge help to our passing game."

Ward called Holmes a "good kid, so I'm looking forward to working out with him. He knows what's at stake for him. He's eager to learn. He's a great student of the game, always asking me questions. That's what I'm here for. I'm here to be the guy he can lean on and ask for help."

Ward said the most difficult aspect for both rookie receivers will be learning the playbook, and that he's willing to help both of them. Reid got a leg up on Holmes because of his work in the spring.

"I feel pretty confident and pretty confident in what we're trying to do, our philosophy here," Reid said after receiving his $453,000 signing bonus.

"I know I'm still a rookie and I'm going to make mistakes, but a lot of mistakes I think I cut down with the minicamp and the coaching sessions."

As for Roethlisberger, he'll speak to the media after Saturday's run test – whether he runs it or not.

Since the run test is considered the final part of the team physical, a player can participate in the run test (14 40s) and still be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List. However, Colbert doesn't see that in Roethlisberger's near future.

"To have him make that recovery and be available right now, it's truly a blessing," Colbert said. "We're happy not only for us to have that player but for Ben to function fully."


Steel City Insider Top Stories