Between morning and afternoon practices, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed his civil lawsuit by, well, not addressing it. Roethlisberger kept repeating that he is here for football. Focused on football.
“This is what I do,” he said. “I play football.” But Steelers players said he addressed it with them in private here in Latrobe, Pa.
Steelers receiver Hines Ward said Roethlisberger told the team he was sorry, that he “apologized” for the “distraction” and promised that he would do his best to limit damaging the team’s focus.
Roethlisberger throws the football to a pair of rare starting receivers. In Ward and Santonio Holmes, he has two Super Bowl MVP targets. But Roethlisberger knows the development of second-year receiver Limas Sweed and rookie Mike Wallace is critical to the passing game. Wallace is a burner, a third-round pick from Mississippi.
“We know he’s fast,” Roethlisberger said. “We want to focus first on him catching the ball.”
Holmes added: “We have to get the young guys ready in case Hines or me has an injury and can’t go. And that means working with them and helping them get focused on learning the offense and getting comfortable quickly.”
This is the Steelers’ 44th consecutive camp here at St. Vincent College. Team owner Dan Rooney had attended the prior 43. But on July 21, Rooney took a position as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.
Steelers communication coordinator Dave Lockett said: “He is in Ireland and likely will not attend camp. We are hopeful that he will be able to attend our season-opener at home against Tennessee on Sept. 10. Right now, we just don’t know. He used to fly here every day from Pittsburgh for training camp practices.” Clearly, among all of the Steelers, Rooney’s presence is missed.
Pittsburgh returns 20 of 22 starters. Missing are linebacker Larry Foote and cornerback Bryant McFadden. Their challenge is to not only replace those starters but also to build a refreshed attitude and energy about the 2009 season, says Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. And in the morning practice, Tomlin made sure that message resonated. He knows that defending Super Bowl champions often tank the following season.
“We’ll stay hungry,” he insists.
He said he would seek that tone in Pittsburgh’s evening practice here and in each one beyond.
– Thomas George