Roethlisberger to return Tuesday

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger has passed his first test. Next week, he'll be on the field with the Steelers at organized team activities.

After reviewing behavioral evaluations he reviewed following the April 21 suspension, commissioner Roger Goodell cleared Roethlisberger to practice. League spokesman Greg Aiello released a statement that read

"Commissioner Goodell has advised Steelers & Ben Roethlisberger that he is cleared to return to team activities next week."

In response to the news, Steelers president Art Rooney II released a statement through the team.

"Commissioner Goodell informed us today that based on the information he received from the clinical evaluations, he has cleared Ben Roethlisberger to return to the Steelers' facility to take part in both meetings and practices. We look forward to having Ben re-join his teammates on the practice field."

In what capacity Roethlisberger will return is not known. He hasn't participated in voluntary of mandatory team workouts, first to prevent creating a major distraction during the investigation into charges he sexually assaulted a college student in a Georgia nightclub, and thereafter at the order of Goodell.

The two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback still faces a six-game suspension. Goodell reserved the right to reduce that penalty to four games, but has not done so to date.

The Steelers first scheduled workout next week is Tuesday, June 1. There are three team workouts scheduled for the week before the team breaks until July 30, the official start date of training camp.

Roethlisberger is permitted to practice and play in preseason games before starting his suspension during the regular season. He's scheduled to return, if the six-game ban is upheld, for the Steelers-Saints game Oct. 31.


* Rashard Mendenhall, benched in the third game last season because he did not practice well, will be the focus of the Steelers' so-called renewed commitment to the ground game in 2010.

Mendenhall recovered nicely from that benching last season. He was installed as the starter in the fourth game after a toe injury to Willie Parker and went on to become the seventh different back in franchise history to top 1,000 yards rushing. He had 1,108 yards with an average of 4.6 per carry.

With Parker gone, Mendenhall becomes the man. Mewelde Moore is the only other back on their roster who has had a carry in the NFL.

"I feel it was a pretty good start," Mendenhall said of his 2009 season, one year after his rookie campaign ended with 19 carries and a broken shoulder in the fourth game. "Right now I feel a lot better. Having that game experience, going out now I think everything's a lot more instinctive and comfortable."

The Steelers added Jonathan Dwyer to their backfield with a sixth-round draft pick, but have done little else to beef up their running game that team president Art Rooney said needs to improve in 2010. The Steelers ranked 19th in rushing in the NFL last season.

Among the other backs on their roster are Frank Summers, a rookie put on injured reserve last season with a bad back, and Isaac Redman, who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad after he went undrafted.

Mendenhall would like to think the Steelers will run better in 2010 but he said it's too early to determine if that will happen and if there indeed will be a heavier emphasis on the run.

"It's tough to say right now because we're just trying to get back into things and I think our offense will form into shape as we get closer to camp. As a running back, you want the ball in your hands, you want to run the ball. That doesn't seem to be our focus. But whatever's called to do, however this offense is formed and shaped, we'll be willing to do that."

Like all backs, he would love to have a fullback slamming into the line to create some holes for him, something Bruce Arians does not prefer to use in his offense.

"As a running back you want a fullback," he said. "A fullback is another set of eyes in the backfield, they kind of read and feel through things that receivers and tight ends don't normally do, so as a running back you want that."

* The Steelers report to training camp in Latrobe, Pa., July 30 and will have their annual running test that day and start practice the next.

* Coach Mike Tomlin will replace Roethlisberger at the quarterback's summer youth football camp June 21-23 in the Pittsburgh area.

"At the request of Ben Roethlisberger, I have agreed to host this year's Youth Football Camp," Tomlin said. "Ben has expressed his hopes that this outstanding community program can continue despite his absence as he addresses issues regarding his personal life. The camp already has a significant number of kids signed up who are expecting a great experience, and both Ben and I want to make sure they are not disappointed."

* Nothing has changed in the quarterback rotation with six OTAs left: Byron Leftwich runs with the first team, Dennis Dixon the second and Charlie Batch the third.

"I haven't been told anything," Dixon said. "All I can do is control myself on my reps and try to make the most of it."

* The Steelers got a scare early in practice Wednesday when first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey crumpled in pain after 330-pound guard Trai Essex stepped on his left foot. Trainers looked at his toe and after several minutes, the guard-center returned to finish practice.

"Oh, man, 330 pounds on a toe!" Pouncey said. "I felt it a little bit at first, but I got back in there and couldn't let the guys down."

* SS Troy Polamalu continues to miss OTAs while training individually in California, as he did the previous two years.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't feel I'll be broken in half. Sometimes you have to use your instincts. If someone is coming full speed at you, you have to get down when need be." -- QB Dennis Dixon, on his running and get-down ability.

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