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Below is the verbatim memo sent out by Roger Goodell to all 32 NFL teams on Thursday:
TO NFL PLAYERS AND COACHES:
One of our highest priorities is player safety. We all know that football is a tough game that includes hard contact. But that carries with it an obligation to do all that we can to protect all players from unnecessary injury caused by dangerous techniques from those who play outside the rules.
The video shown today shows what kind of hits are against the rules, but also makes clear that you can play a hard, physical game within the rules.
Violations of the playing rules that unreasonably put the safety of another player in jeopardy have no place in the game, and that is especially true in the case of hits to the head and neck. Accordingly, from this point forward, you should be clear on the following points:
1. Players are expected to play within the rules. Those who do not will face increased discipline, including suspensions, starting with the first offense.
2. Coaches are expected to teach playing within the rules. Failure to do so will subject both the coach and the employing club to discipline.
3. Game officials have been directed to emphasize protecting players from illegal and dangerous hits, and particularly from hits to the head and neck. In appropriate cases, they have the authority to eject players from a game.
Browns center Alex Mack says that James Harrison’s fine-earning hit on Mohamed Massquoi was just the tip of the iceberg, and that Harrison led with his head throughout the game. Mack goes on to argue that if helmet-to-helmet tackling is encouraged in youth football, that needs to be changed:
“A lot of the arguments right now are people are taught from Pee Wee football that this is how you play,” Mack said. “Well, we need to change that. You can’t be breaking your head. There are better ways to tackle. We’re taught you’re not supposed to spear with the top of your head.”
James Harrison is back at practice today, just as Mike Tomlin predicted he would be. Harrison had threatened to retire after the NFL hit him with a $75,000 fine for his hit on Mohamed Massaquoi of the Browns. It looks like he wasn’t upset enough to actually do so, and it looks like Tomlin was right when he said that Harrison often says things he doesn’t mean. Hopefully both Harrison and the Steelers can get back to work after what has been a week filled with controversy – they have a game against the Dolphins for which to prepare.
It sounds like the retirement talk is over, as Mike Tomlin apparently just said James Harrison will return to practice tomorrow.
Thanks to Steelers Depot.
Lost in all the hubbub about Harrisongate is the news that Lawrence Timmons has been named the AFC Defensive Player Of The Week for his performance against the Browns, in which he recorded 11 tackles, two sacks and an interception. We’ll probably be talking about Harrison for a few more days (and hopefully not more than that), but Timmons’ emergence is one of this season’s biggest stories.
The Post-Gazette reports that James Harrison is taking the day off today to think about whether he wants to retire. Harrison says he isn’t sure he wants to work in an environment in which hits like the one he made against the Browns’ Mohamed Massaquoi could get him fired. Harrison is also meeting with head coach Mike Tomlin today.
This sounds more serious than it did last night, but again, I wouldn’t worry too much yet. I’m sure Harrison’s frustration is genuine, but I can’t believe he’s going to take his ball and go home over this.
Hours after the league fined him $75,000 for his concussion-causing hit on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, Harrison appeared on Fox Sports Radio’s “Into The Night with Tony Bruno” and told guest host Jody McDonald that his first stop Wednesday morning will be in Tomlin’s office.
“I’m going to sit down and have a serious conversation with my coach tomorrow and see if I can actually play by NFL rules and still be effective,” Harrison said. “If not, I may have to give up playing football.”
This should be the talk of the town on Wednesday, but it sounds like Harrison is just smarting over the fine and the negative attention, and I frankly doubt we’ll hear much more about this. This sounds like the kind of thing I'd say and not mean if someone got angry at me for doing what I thought was my job. I wouldn't call the papers to say it, but then again I'm not someone who has a mic in his face all the time. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn't overly worried about this either:
"I didn’t see those comments, but I know James," Tomlin said. "James says a lot of things he doesn’t necessarily mean. He’s a tough talker, like a lot of guys that play the game at this level. If you want to get to know James, catch him on a Tuesday when he’s walking through the building with his son. He’s a big softie."
Former Steelers great Franco Harris weighs in on the controversy over hard hitting, or tackling headfirst, or whatever we should call the trouble James Harrison is in. (I’ll just call it Harrisongate.) Harris says that he understands head injuries are a problem, but that it’s not a problem that can be fixed merely by telling NFL defenders not to tackle the way they already do:
“To me, I don’t think that makes sense,” he said. “To go back and tell someone, ‘We just made a new rule, you did it in the past, so you’re going to pay the consequences now.’”
He adds that suspensions could have a big impact on the game.
“How do you make sure that a player can do their job effectively without worrying about being suspended?” …
He says the culture in football won’t change overnight and it will have to start at the high school level and then make its way to the NFL.
This is a sensible point. Fines and suspensions might help, but they probably won’t fix the problem as well as some sort of coordinated teaching effort might. I’m actually amazed that defenders are able to lay off of quarterbacks and punters as often as they are. The sort of aggression that leads to the kind of hits Harrison meted out this week has to be hard to overrule, psychologically, and if that’s the way Harrison is tackling, it’s probably going to be hard for him to stop.
“There’s a lot of tough talk about we’re going to do this and we’re going do that, but what’s $75,000 to somebody who’s made $20 milion over the past 18 months,” said Brian Ayrault, who represents Massaquoi, in a telephone interview with National Football Post. “That’s less than one percent. It’s like fining a billionaire $5 million. That’s nothing to them. It needs to be enforced in a way that makes it stop.”
He’s right, of course – $75,000 would be a crippling blow to a poor blogger like me, but for Harrison it’s just a slap on the wrist. If the NFL is serious about stopping hits like this, they should do something more drastic. I’m not sure Harrison is the best player to make an example of, since it has only been this week since the issue has come to the forefront, and since he pretty clearly did try to use his hands to soften the blow on Massaquoi. But I’m not sure I disagree with Massaquoi’s agent on principle.
The NFL says that James Harrison’s $75,000 fine was for his hit against Mohamed Massaquoi. His hit against Josh Cribbs, which also knocked its target out of the game, was legal. Here's the NFL's rule:
h) If a receiver has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself, a defensive player is prohibited from launching (springing forward and upward) into him in a way that causes the defensive player's helmet, facemask, shoulder, or forearm to forcibly strike the receiver's head or neck area -- even if the initial contact of the defender's helmet, facemask, shoulder, or forearm is lower than the receiver's neck.
You can compare the two hits here:
$75,000 fine for James Harrison. His agent calls it “staggering”, says they will appeal.
I’m not sure Harrison got extra attention because he’s a big-name player, but I do think these kinds of rough hits are on people’s minds right now due to what happened in the Rutgers game this weekend.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison might be my favorite player on the squad not named Hines Ward. He’s just so fun to watch terrorize opposing offenses. His combination of incredible speed and power makes him one of the most violent players in all of professional football. On Sunday during the Steelers’ 28-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, Harrison knocked two players – Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi – out of the game with concussions. Both were helmet-to-helmet hits, yet neither was flagged as a penalty.
The NFL on Monday declared that the hit on Cribbs was legal, but that they would be reviewing the hit on Massaquoi. You can expect Harrison to be fined, if for no other reason that it ‘sends a message’ that helmet-to-helmet hits can’t be tolerated in the increasingly-violent game. Harrison responded very frankly when asked if he thought either hit was illegal or worthy of a fine.
“I don’t want to injure anybody,” Harrison said following Pittsburgh’s 28-10 victory. “There’s a big difference between being hurt and being injured. You get hurt, you shake it off and come back the next series or the next game. I try to hurt people.”
Of course, the media and fans will run with the soundbite of ‘I try to hurt people’ rather than taking it in context with his entire statement. And he’s absolutely right. NFL players do try to hurt each other. Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens said as much after he TKO’d Rashard Mendenhall for the year with a shoulder injury back in 2008.
Harrison’s teammates and coaches know what his intentions are, and are thankful they have him on their team setting the tone. Coach Tomlin had this to say about Harrison:
“James is always ready to deliver for his teammates,” Tomlin said. “That’s why they have so much respect for him. He’s a good football player, man. He always delivers timely performances when you need them. Talking to a lot of young players, they want to know the recipe for being a dominant, great player. It’s not only delivering plays, but delivering plays at a timely manner — significant plays. And he does that for the most part.”
Hines Ward, notorious for his aggressive style of play, followed up with:
“You see a guy like that, knocking guys out like that … he’s a man on a mission,” Ward said. “He sets the tempo for everybody.”
More on this story this week after we see what the NFL’s course of action is.
Today marked another victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team's first with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who returned to action today after serving a four-game suspension following his second consecutive offseason with allegations of rape. The Steelers (4-1), steamrolled the Cleveland Browns (1-5), securing their first division win this season.
Roethlisberger finished with a gaudy stat line: 9.5 yards per attempt, a 59.3 completion percentage, three touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 112.7. He benefited greatly from Cleveland's repeatedly stacking the box in a very successful attempt to contain Rashard Mendenhall (3.1 ypc) on the ground. However, Roethlisberger left plenty of plays on the field, misfiring on several open targets. His lone interception of the game came on a 3rd down attempt in the red zone, when he missed Mewelde Moore and hit rookie cornerback Joe Haden in the breadbasket.
Chalk it up to Roethlisberger shaking off the rust, if you must, although that's never seemed particularly valid to me. For all the amazing plays he's capable of making, Roethlisberger has always proven equally capable of some stinkers, as well. Steelers fans can only hope he's operating at a higher level when their team takes on a more dangerous opponent - like the Miami Dolphins next week.
The Steelers defense, of course, was excellent. They held Cleveland's rushing attack in check (3.4 ypc), snatched two interceptions (both off of tipped balls), and recorded five sacks. Lawrence Timmons, in particular, was phenomenal. In addition to two sacks and an interception, he continued his absurd tackling pace, bringing Cleveland players to the ground on 9 occasions. He now has 57 tackles in five games.
Pittsburgh's defensive front harassed Browns quarterback Colt McCoy all day - his jersey had more grass stains than a commercial for Tide - but the rookie kept his cool, for the most part. He finished with an eye-opening completion percentage of 69.7 and 8.5 yards per attempt. On the team's first few series, he seemed fidgety in the pocket, tucking the ball to run at the first whiff of pressure. In short, he played like he was still a Texas Longhorn. But as the game wore on, McCoy seemed more comfortable looking downfield for the open man.
Cleveland may have lost (again) to Pittsburgh, but it seems as though they've found a promising young quarterback. Barring injury, there's no doubt in my mind McCoy will be under center for the Browns when the Steelers head to Cleveland in Week 17.
Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back for their game today against the Browns, which the Steelers currently lead the 7-3 in the third quarter. The Steelers’ lone touchdown came on a 29-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace. Roethlisberger is currently 9-for-15 for 115 yards with that touchdown and an interception. The Browns’ Joshua Cribbs is out of the game after a nasty hit by James Harrison:
Rashard Mendenhall has 14 rushes for 56 yards, including this 25-yard gem:
I made the case during Pittsburgh's bye week that Doug Legursky, an undrafted center out of Marshall, could swipe Trai Essex's starting position at right guard if he continues to play as well as he did against the Buccaneers and Ravens.
Well, it looks like Legursky will get another chance to showcase his skills, as he'll get the start this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Essex, who suffered an ankle sprain in Week 2, was only a limited participant in this week's practices. His grasp on the starting job at right guard was tenuous during training camp, when the coaching staff was considering starting rookie first-rounder Maurkice Pouncey instead.
Essex's is the only significant injury this week for the Steelers.
Filed under the ‘just for fun’ category, here’s a few player props for Ben Roethlisberger, who of course will be making his 2010 debut this Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns.
Ben Roethlisberger – Total Passing Yards Week 6 vs Cleveland
Ben Roethlisberger – What will he do first Week 6 vs Cleveland
Throw a TD Pass -225
Throw an Interception: +185
Ben Roethlisberger – Completion % Week 6 vs Cleveland
Ben Roethlisberger – Total Passing Yards in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
Ben Roethlisberger – Total TD Passes in the 2010 NFL Regular Season
We’re just a few short days away from the 2010 debut for Pittsburgh Steelers franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Steeler Nation has been waiting for this day ever since news broke earlier this spring of his alleged wrongdoing in a Georgia bar. Most fans believed Roethlisberger would be suspended for some period of time, but not as many thought the Steelers would be positioned so nicely in the standings upon his return. At 3-1, the Steelers are in great shape to make a run at a third playoff berth in four years. Now it’s up to Roethlisberger to hit the ground running and lead the Steelers’ offense. Big Ben is admittedly nervous and excited about trying to do just that.
“I’m excited. But I’m not to the peak of my excitement yet, that will probably come later,” Roethlisberger said before Wednesday’s practice. “I’m anxious, excited, a lot of emotions. But, like I said, a lot of it is under wraps right now because we’re focusing on practice.”
As for the reception he’s expecting from the Heinz Field faithful on Sunday? Roethlisberger just hopes it’s as warm as the one he received during the preseason.
“Hopefully a lot of cheers,” Roethlisberger said when asked about the fans. “In the preseason there was a lot of it. So I hope nothing will change.”
If the Steelers win, a facile story of redemption will be spun.
It’s just how these things work. An athlete can mess up in any conceivable way. As long as he atones somehow and returns to victory, this is path taken by the media according to the tacit laws of simplistic sports morals. And people wonder how those feelings of entitlement get fostered.
If the Steelers lose, the distraction storyline will be a constant for at least a month.
Just as a troubled player who wins is feted with redemption, the loser is further saddled with being a millstone around the neck of all his teammates. This would be especially the case for Roethlisberger, who is rejoining a team that had been playing very well in his absence and now faces a team they are widely assumed to beat.
This might be a good game to watch with the sound off.
What follows is an excerpt from a recent post on Behind the Steel Curtain, SB Nation's Pittsburgh Steelers site. It takes a close look at just how dominant the Pittsburgh Steelers have been defensively against the Cleveland Browns during the years that recent Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau has been coordinating the team's defense. Let's take a look at the opening of the post, then I encourage you to take a look at some of the other staggering numbers compiled by LeBeau's units.
Dick LeBeau officially took the reigns of Steelers Defensive Coordinator in 2004, after brief stints in Cincinnati and Buffalo as the DC/Head Coach and Assistant Coach, respectively. Prior to moving to Cincinnati, Coach Dad spent 2 years as the DC in Pittsburgh from 1995-1996. Therefore, I will look at his years as the Steelers DC against the Browns, '95-'96 and '04-'09. Oops, no '96...I forgot the Browns got Mayflowered by Baltimore.
In his career as the Defensive Coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, LeBeau has faced the Browns 14 times. Amazingly, the Steelers have a 13-1 record in those 14 games. In other words, LeBeau owns the Browns. Now let's take a look at some of the defensive totals and averages:
Category Total Average / Game Points 134 9.6 Total Yards 3161 225.8 Pass Yards 2095 149.6 Rush Yards
Those are some unbelievable numbers. Under LeBeau, the Steelers defense has absolutely smothered the Browns offense. Another interesting fact is that the Steelers faced more new starting QBs (8) than starting running backs (5) in that time. At QB, LeBeau has seen Quinn, DA, Gradkowski, Frye, Dilfer, Garcia, Eric Zeir, and Testaverde and at starting RB he has faced Chris Jennings, J. Lewis, Droughns, Lee Suggs, and Leroy Hoard. To put that in perspective, the Steelers had only Roethlisberger, Batch, and O'Donnell start at QB in those games. Keep in mind, the points average only includes points the defense surrendered. Kick/Punt/Interception/Fumble returns for Touchdowns do not count. If you included those, however, the Steelers still only allowed 12.1 points per game.
Now let's take a look at how the Steelers defense per game did in comparison to Cleveland's offensive averages per year. In other words we will compare their yearly offensive yardage averages to what they produced against the Steelers (obviously, I will take our numbers out of their yearly averages):
With Cleveland likely starting rookie quarterback Colt McCoy and the Steelers looking like one of the best teams in the NFL, the smart money is on Pittsburgh to move to 4-1 after their Week 6 tilt with the Browns. However, a Steelers win very well may be contingent on containing Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland's most frightening player.
Cribbs is a jack of all trades, an absolute Swiss army knife of a football player. First and foremost, he is a deadly return man. In his career, he has 33 returns of 40 or more yards and 10 touchdowns, three of which have come against the Steelers.
He's also off to his best start as a wide receiver, recording 175 yards on 13 receptions through five games this year. Those numbers are hardly impressive, but the Browns' anemic passing attack (198.6 ypg, 22nd in the league) is mostly to blame. The point stands: Cribbs in the open field is a bad, bad thing. While the Browns have mostly been targeting him with short, dump-off passes, Cribbs has shown that he can also make plays downfield from time to time.
Finally, Cribbs can sustain drives for the Browns by taking snaps in the wildcat formation. Steelers fans learned that in tragic fashion, as the Browns upset Pittsburgh last year, due in large part to a brilliant 87-yard rushing performance (10.9 ypc) from Cribbs. He even threw a (surprisingly accurate) pass last week against the Atlanta Falcons. While running back Peyton Hillis figures to be Cleveland's bread and butter - assuming he's healthy - look for the Browns to sprinkle in a sizeable dose of direct snaps to Cribbs, as well.
Head coach Mike Tomlin is already preparing for that:
"We should expect to see a great deal of Cribbs in the wildcat regardless of their quarterback situation because he had such success against us a year ago, and that’s usually the nature of the league...when you show areas of deficiency, usually you are going to continue to see those challenges until you fix it. We didn’t fix it in that football game. We will have an opportunity to fix it in this one."
Head coach Mike Tomlin expects fans to cheer Ben Roethlisberger during the team's game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the quarterback's first since serving a four-game suspension due to a second straight offseason with allegations of rape:
"I expect him to get a warm reception. I really do. I really think that is the nature of Steeler nation. I know we are excited to have him back."
I suppose one way of reading this is, "Guys, please don't boo our idiot quarterback. Please." Even still, I can't imagine there won't be at least some jeers at Heniz Field this Sunday. There will be some Browns fans in attendance, as well as some Steelers faithful who still feel spurned by Roethlisberger's off-the-field transgressions.
Nonetheless, I think Tomlin is right on the money. I might be singing a different tune if Pittsburgh was winless, or 1-3, or even .500. But because the team has been so successful without their star quarterback, even the fans who haven't forgiven Roethlisberger are tantalized by thoughts of how good the Steelers could be when takes charge of a passing attack currently ranked 31st in the league. Even if some fans feel compelled to boo him when the starting lineups are announced, it will only take a big-gainer or two to cleanse their palates.
On the road in Week 7, I can't imagine Miami Dolphins fans show any mercy at all, but for now, Roethlisberger can count on a warm reception at home.
One has 60 career regular season wins, two Super Bowls, and a $100 million dollar contract. The other has taken exactly zero snaps in the National Football League. All eyes will be on Ben Roethlisberger this coming Sunday when the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers take on their most historic rival, the Cleveland Browns. Big Ben, of course, is making his 2010 season debut after sitting out the first four games of the season with a league-mandated suspension. As it happens, Roethlisberger may not be the only quarterback taking his first snaps of the year. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy may just make his rookie debut on Sunday at Heinz Field against the league’s top ranked scoring defense. Scary prospect if you’re a Browns fan, is it not?
If you remember, Browns president Mike Holmgren had said after the 2010 Draft that McCoy would not play in 2010 unless unforeseen, extreme circumstances materialized. The Browns started the season with veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace vying with one another for the starting duties. Holmgren assumed that one of the two, or both, would get all the snaps at QB this year while McCoy got stronger and studied diligently. With both veterans shelved with injuries, the Browns look like they have no choice but to turn to McCoy to lead the team into enemy territory against a divisional rival.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini sarcastically downplayed the monumental task at hand for McCoy were he to in fact be named the starter.
“It’s only the Steelers, right?” Mangini said with a perfect touch of sarcasm. “Coming off a bye week? They don’t blitz much.”
Stay tuned for more updates throughout the week here and at Behind the Steel Curtain as Steeler Nation eagerly awaits the return of Ben Roethlisberger to the fold.
Yes, Steeler Nation is excited about the return of Ben Roethlisberger from his four-game suspension. So is Roethlisberger. Amidst the fanfare that will accompany his season debut however is the simple fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers very much need to beat the Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers are currently one game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North, and a second divisional loss in as many games would put them in an uncomfortable hole. Obviously Roethlisberger has had tremendous success against the Browns in his career, but the last time the two historic rivals faced last December, the Browns got the better of Big Ben and the Steelers. Roethlisberger remembers that game, a frigid night along Lake Erie when the Steelers were unable to muster anything offensively.
What Roethlisberger remembers are the cold and confusion in Cleveland. Temperatures were in the single digits and, for much of the game, it seemed as if the Steelers’ offensive yardage was, too, despite playing an 1-11 opponent.
The Steelers gained only 75 yards in the first half and, despite holding Cleveland scoreless in the second half, were limited to a Jeff Reed field goal after halftime. Roethlisberger was sacked eight times for 60 yards.
“They really got after us. We never want to make excuses, but we really just didn’t play good football,‘’ Roethlisberger said. "It was cold and windy, but they just got after us. Point blank, and we just couldn’t do anything on offense.’’
Roethlisberger doesn't expect his return to be extra motivation for the Steelers - not after their Bye Week, and not against a divisional opponent. They're already fired up and focused.
Congressman Tom Rooney, the grandson of Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr., says the Steelers tried to trade Ben Roethlisberger and that his return to the Steelers this week would have his grandfather “spinning in his grave":
“It’s embarrassing that the guy is well compensated,” Rooney said. “You know how well our family has tried to treat some of these players, and for him to turn around misbehave the way he has the last couple of years, is just unacceptable to me. I don’t care how many Super Bowl’s he’s won for us.”
Thanks to Steelers Depot.
Did that headline grab your attention? Mine too. In a recent interview on NFL Live with Merril Hoge, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted that his tumultuous offseason of legal trouble and public scrutiny led him to contemplate quitting the game. I have yet to see the interview, so it’s not clear the context of the statement. It sure seems to contradict what I’ve heard out of Big Ben this summer – that above all else, this whole ordeal made him realize how much he loved football.
“There was a time when I was going through all this that I contemplated not playing anymore. I didn’t want to be Big Ben anymore. And I know that’s what goes along with being No. 7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Roethlisberger said on NFL Live. “So part of me, I can admit didn’t want to play anymore. And go coach or do something else.”
Roethlisberger says his love of football and teammates ultimately made it impossible to stay away.
Did Roethlisberger really contemplate quitting, or was he just trying to be candid and forthright about just how difficult it was for him to be cast as the bad guy around the country? We’ll never know, I suppose. For now, let’s just get this debut out of the way so that Roethlisberger can stay away from the mic and focus on leading his team to a seventh Super Bowl.
Patience, Steeler Nation. We’ve still got more than a week to go before the Pittsburgh Steelers play again. When they do against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will make his 2010 season debut after finishing his four-game suspension to begin the year. How will Ben Ben fare in his first outing back? Well, the opponent is the Browns, a team against which Roethlisberger has had great success in his career. Head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t too concerned about Roethlisberger being unready. As Tomlin explained on Mike & Mike In The Morning (interview begins at 33:30 mark), guys like Roethlisberger are so competitive that it’s unlikely he’ll be too rusty.
“I’m sure in some form or fashion. But guys like Ben — competitors — playing football is like breathing to them. I really think he’s going to get back in and get about his business. That’s what he does, what he loves, he’d do it for nothing. So I’m a little less concerned about that then one might think.”
Tomlin was then asked about Commissioner Goodell’s statements about Roethlisberger doing an outstanding job fulfilling the terms of his suspension, and then some.
“Well, he’s embraced responsibility. He’s been very accountable in terms of this situation and dealing with it. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him, not only to the letter but beyond. He’s just had a great attitude in terms of dealing with it — a mature one, one that’s encouraging moving forward.”
Two Sundays from now can’t come soon enough.
Whitfield said he was impressed with the quarterback’s work ethic and has no doubt he’ll be able to step in and perform at a high level.
“He was very much doing everything that was necessary to go out and compete on Sunday. So I know fitness wise, he’s there. He was always going 100 mph. He was very adamant in staying in that racehorse mentality,” Whitfield said. “You’re out here four weeks on your own and then you’re going to jump on a moving train, so for him, he understood clearly. Every day he came out there, he knew exactly where he had to be.”
I'm sure there are analysts out there predicting that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be "rusty" - they'll use that exact word, too, I guarantee it - now that he's through serving a four-game suspension for his second straight offseason tarnished by accusations of rape. You always see this kind of fortune-telling when the Colts go 14-1 or 13-2 and clinch everything there is to clinch, then rest their starters in Week 17. It's the kind of prediction you can get away with making, because it's such an easy, lazy assumption. After all, there's no burden of proof when you're just spit-balling behind a broadcaster's desk, and no one will call you out on it even if you're wrong.
Steelers fans shouldn't be worried about Roethlisberger. He's already taken a page out of the Brett Favre Book of Alternative Offseason Conditioning and worked out with a private quarterback coach at a local high school. He's been watching film, studying the playbook, and tracking the Steelers' progress in his stead. Numerous reports this offseason, particularly from training camp have said that he's in the best shape of his NFL career. Granted, everyone is in the best shape of their career every offseason - allegedly - but even a casual fan could detect changes in his appearance that seemed to corroborate this praise.
Say what you will about Roethlisberger's off-the-field idiocy - seriously, say it; I probably will if you don't! - but the guy has never been anything but a consummate professional when it comes to preparing for football. So it should come as no surprise that the quarterback's first practice went off without a hitch. Here's wide receiver Hines Ward on Roethlisberger's first outing with the team:
It's exciting. He was the first one out there. It's great to have him back. He was firing it left and right.
Antwaan Randle El concurred, although it seems he'll need to adjust his timing to get used to Roethlisberger's delivery:
In warm-ups, I had a drop because I didn't get my head around quick enough. It kind of shot through me. But I woke up from there knowing that his arm is a bit ready to go and it's sharp.
Whatever minor kinks there are, the Steelers will take care of them during the bye week. And they basically get a scrimmage when they return, as they host the division's perennial whipping boy, the Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers are currently ranked second-to-last in the league in passing offense (136 ypg). Roethlisberger's return should turn that around sooner rather than later, as the offense becomes more balanced and much, much more potent, complementing a dominant defense that makes the Pittsburgh Steelers one of the NFL's early-season Super Bowl contenders.
Ben Roethlisberger officially returned to the Steelers on Monday after serving his four-game suspension, and he'll have nearly two weeks to practice with the first team before Pittsburgh faces off against the Browns on October 17. Roethlisberger will practice today, Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off. Here's some video from the Steelers' press conference yesterday afternoon, courtesy of the Trib:
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