Ben Roethlisberger stepped back onto the practice field into a familiar spot today, running the Steelers' first-team offense for the first time in six weeks.
He and his teammates have a simple goal, to achieve some kind of normalcy under unprecedented circumstances.
"I think normalcy is something we all look for," offensive tackle Max Starks said.
Roethlisberger did not speak publicly today, and coach Mike Tomlin left practice early for a meeting he had to attend away from the Steelers facility. That left the quarterback's teammates to speak on his behalf.
Most said he looked as though he were in good shape, and that he did nothing special on his first day back since he last practiced with them during the first two spring drills April 19-20. A week later, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first four to six games of the season for his actions in the early morning of March 5 in Georgia, where a woman accused him of sexual assault. Authorities in there decided not to charge him with a crime, but issued a scathing report on his activities.
"He was excited to get back, happy to be back in the fold, if you will," said defensive end Brett Keisel, one of Roethlisberger's closest friends on the team.
"He said he had butterflies this morning, he's excited to go to work and get back around the guys and start working toward another championship."
Byron Leftwich, who had been running the first-team offense since he was acquired in a trade before the draft, had a previous commitment to attend and did not practice today. It remains to be seen who will run the first team when Leftwich returns, likely tomorrow. As usual, Dennis Dixon ran with the second team and Charlie Batch the third.
Dixon said he was not surprised that Roethlisberger ran the first team, even as the Steelers prepare a quarterback to replace him for the first four-to-six games of the season.
"No, not at all. That is Ben, he's been there and done that. I'm not worried about that. I'm just trying to get better every day."