Roethlisberger 'normal' in return to practice

LATROBE – Clark Haggans was asked about Ben Roethlisberger's first practice, and Haggans prefaced his answer this way: "Considering what he's been through," the linebacker said, "he looked good."

Haggans was asked to assess the quarterback's first practice without the consideration that Roethlisberger wrecked his motorcycle seven weeks ago and is lucky to be alive.

"He looked good," Haggans said. "He looked normal."

Normal is all anyone wants from Ben Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl. But the Super Bowl was seemingly played another lifetime ago. Roethlisberger has had to pass several tests since, and Sunday's practice, the Pittsburgh Steelers' first of the season, was another one.

Roethlisberger made all the throws. Not that he completed all of them, but he made them with plenty of zip. And he rolled left to throw one deep pass and bootlegged right to throw another one. His mobility impressed Coach Bill Cowher.

"It was the best scramble drill we've had in two years," Cowher said. "We try to simulate that and we had the best one on the first day of practice."

Roethlisberger did report to Cowher that he hit his hand on a helmet, but there wasn't a noticeable effect on his passes. Roethlisberger's arm appeared strong, although his accuracy was inconsistent.

His first pass of the seven-on-seven drill was batted down by Haggans, who, a few passes later, intercepted (and dropped while tucking) a Roethlisberger pass intended for rookie tight end Charles Davis. On Roethlisberger's third snap of the team scrimmage, he attempted a quick out pass to No. 3 receiver Nate Washington that was intercepted by Deshea Townsend and returned 15 yards for a touchdown.

Roethlisberger's first pass of the team scrimmage was dropped by Ward, and his second pass, a deep pass, bounced off the outstretched arms of Cedrick Wilson. Helping Roethlisberger out with leaping catches were Quincy Morgan and Eugene Baker, while fullback John Kuhn made a diving catch of a low fastball that may have been the best catch of the day.

"It was the first time I've thrown in months so I have to ease my arm into it a little bit," Roethlisberger said. "I didn't hold back or anything today. I didn't feel any different than I normally do on my first day of practice."

"He says he's ready to go, so we're proceeding on," Cowher said. "The more we get out here, the more we'll relieve some of the tension. Until he takes the first hit in a game, that's going to be there too. But he seems good and we're moving on."

What about that first hit? Is Roethlisberger ready for some contact?

"Well, I don't get hit for a long time so I'm good," he said.

Quarterbacks, of course, are off limits to practice-field contact. The first preseason game is Aug. 12. Does Roethlisberger want to play in that game at Arizona?

"Well that's always coach's call," he said. "Healthy or not, it's coach's call to make that decision. I want to let him know that I'm ready for him whenever he needs me."

"Everything's right on schedule," Cowher said. "But we'll take it day-to-day and week-to-week as we will with a lot of players and see where they are getting ready for that first game and go from there."

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt seemed more pleased with Roethlisberger's mental approach to Sunday's practice. Whisenhunt praised the quarterback's command of the huddle and his understanding of his reads. Whisenhunt also defended Roethlisberger's rustiness.

"The timing was off a little bit for everybody but that's a normal first-day situation, so I'm very encouraged with what he did and it was very good to see him out there," said Whisenhunt, who also was happy with the first-day showing of first-round pick Santonio Holmes. The rookie receiver beat rookie safety Mike Lorello on a deep post in one-on-one drills, went high to make a leaping catch for Charlie Batch in seven-on-sevens, and then beat Ike Taylor and Tyrone Carter deep, only to be overthrown by Batch.

"He made a big play on one of them down the field," Whisenhunt said. "You know, he missed all of the techniques and fundamental things that we did with the routes in the spring, so there are going to be a lot of little things that come up where it's going to cause the timing to be a little bit off. But you know what? He made a good play on the one down the field. You like to see him go and catch the ball like that. And I think once he gets a little more comfortable with what he's doing it'll help him. I was encouraged. The effort was good today."

Steel City Insider Top Stories