Sports Network | August 11, 2010
(Sports Network) - Ben Roethlisberger will be back in uniform for the first time since his turbulent offseason on Saturday night, when the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and his Pittsburgh Steelers play host to the Detroit Lions in the preseason opener for both teams.
Roethlisberger made headlines of an unwanted kind in March, when a 20-year-old college student accused the quarterback of raping her in a bathroom at a Milledgeville, GA bar. No charges were filed against Roethlisberger, but the allegations and surrounding controversy led the NFL to suspend him for six games as a result of his violation of the league's personal conduct policy. Roethlisberger could have his suspension dropped to four games if he complies with certain provisions set forth by the commissioner.
Roethlisberger is eligible to play against the Lions and in all of the team's preseason contents, though it as yet unclear how the suspension might affect his playing time. Byron Leftwich, whom the team re-acquired in a trade with the Buccaneers during the offseason, is the odds-on favorite to win the starting job in Week 1. Veteran Charlie Batch and second-year-pro Dennis Dixon, both of whom have starting experience with the Steelers, will also be in the mix during the preseason.
Elsewhere on offense, Pittsburgh needs to make sure it has the receivers to assist all of its QB's, so the likes of Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El (ex- Redskins), Emmanuel Sanders (3rd Round, SMU), and Arnaz Battle(ex-49ers) will look to impress on Saturday. Additionally, an offensive line that has already lost right tackleWillie Colon for the season due to injury will need to assess the work of newcomers Flozell Adams(ex-Cowboys), Jonathan Scott (ex- Bills) and first-round rookie Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), among others.
The Lions, meanwhile, will be looking to make strides in the preseason after going a combined 2-30 over the past two years. The effort will start with fixing the NFL's worst defense, and in that respect head coach Jim Schwartz will be looking for an impact out of new defensive line lynchpins Ndamukong Suh (1st Round, Nebraska) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (ex-Titans).
Also on Saturday, a crowded cornerback picture comprised mainly of castoffs (Dre' Bly, Dante Wesley, Chris Houston, Jonathan Wade) could begin to solidify.
Offensively, the Lions require continued progress from quarterback Matthew Stafford, though he and the first-team attack are not expected to see much time in the preseason opener.
Among the notable newcomers expected to make their debut in Lions uniforms are rookie running back Jahvid Best (1st Round, California), wideout Nate Burleson (ex-Seahawks), and tight end Tony Scheffler(ex-Broncos).
The Lions hold a 10-7 edge in their all-time series with the Steelers, including a 27-21 home victory in the last such meeting, prior to the 2004 season.
The teams also met in meaningful play last Oct. 11, a 28-20 Pittsburgh win at Ford Field.