Steelers Notebook: Roethlisberger seeking playing time Saturday


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Ben Roethlisberger said he has "no clue yet" if he will start or even play in the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, but emphasized he would like to get on the field at some point Saturday night at Heinz Field.

"Absolutely," Roethlisberger said. "I want to be out there with the guys."

Earlier in the day, coach Mike Tomlin was noncommittal about which quarterback would start against the Lions -- Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon -- and even suggested Roethlisberger might not play at all.

"We're going to make you come to the stadium to find out," Tomlin said in a morning news conference at Saint Vincent College.

When the Steelers opened training camp nearly two weeks ago, Tomlin had Roethlisberger take the first snap and run the first series with the starting offense. It is not known if he will follow a similar approach in the preseason opener.

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, Tomlin said he will use his starters for eight to 12 plays against the Lions.

"If he says I'm not going to play, that's his call," Roethlisberger said after practice Thursday afternoon.

Asked if it mattered if he played with the second-team offense -- something Tomlin suggested as "theoretically" possible -- Roethlisberger said, "Nope."

This will be Roethlisberger's first game since his much-publicized incident in Milledgeville, Ga., in which he was accused, but never charged, of sexual assault against a college student. He was asked if he is worried about how he will be received by the fans at Heinz Field.

"They've been awesome," Roethlisberger said, referring to the fans at training camp. "I think and hope it will be awesome."

Tomlin said he came to training camp with a plan of how he was going to use his quarterbacks and is sticking to that script. He said he wanted to provide Roethlisberger with "enough opportunities to have a productive camp and preseason" and said his quarterback has looked "exceptionally sharp."

Added Tomlin, "To this juncture, you can say it's a double thumbs-up and, hopefully, it continues."

Worilds might sit

Another player who might not be used against the Lions is rookie outside linebacker Jason Worilds, the team's No. 2 draft choice who has been bothered by a hamstring injury that has not completely healed.

"You want to be cautious about putting them in the fire," Tomlin said. "He may be healthy enough to play, but he has played very sporadically and I'm not going to put him in that kind of position. I may choose not to play him."

Tomlin did say No. 1 pick Maurkice Pouncey, who has performed exceptionally well in camp, will be used at right guard and center against the Lions.

Return plan

Stefan Logan, who set a single-season team record for kick returns (55) and kick-return yardage (1,466) in 2009, will start the game as the team's return specialist.

But Tomlin said he will also use rookies Antonio Brown on punt returns and Emmanuel Sanders on kick returns. He said he "may or may not look" at veteran Antwaan Randle El as a return specialist against the Lions.

Tomlin, though, said he is especially looking forward to seeing Sanders, a third-round pick, and Brown, a sixth-round pick, play wide receiver. Both players have been standouts and looked comfortable running routes in camp.

"The pedigree stands out," Tomlin said. "They show maturity in terms of catching the football and gaining separation ... but they still got miles to go. They're rookies. But I like what they're doing."

Quick hits

Linebacker Andre Frazier, who has spent parts of four seasons as a backup with the Steelers, was placed on the injured reserve list today, ending his season. To replace Frazier, the Steelers signed first-year linebacker Brandon Renkart to a one-year contract. Renkart (6-2, 245) has been on the practice squad with the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts since 2008. ... Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, a Moon native and former Pitt assistant, visited training camp for the second year in a row. Calipari was the head coach at Memphis when quarterbacks coach Randy Fitchner was the offensive coordinator there.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com . First Published August 13, 2010 4:15 AM


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