Big Ben most likely the happiest camper


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Ken Roethlisberger felt a new kind of pride this weekend when he played host to his son for dinner: it was Ben's first Father's Day as a dad, and Ken's first as a grandparent.

"It's nice to see [Ben] in that role," Ken Roethlisberger said Monday while taking in Ben's Football ProCamp at Seneca Valley High School. "It's fun to watch him and Benjamin -- he's so small in his arms. He's doing a good job so far. He gets down on the ground and plays with him -- it's great."

Former quarterback and current broadcaster Rich Gannon once said that becoming a father made him a better quarterback in that he became "more disciplined." Since Benjamin Jr. was born in November, Roethlisberger has started to understand the connection.

"I feel like having a child, especially a son, makes you very patient," he said. "It was enjoyable to have my first Father's Day and be around family -- that's what's important to me."

"It was nice having the whole family together," Ken added. "We went to church in the morning all together. They came to our house and his wife, Ashley, cooked dinner -- a cheese pasta with chicken in it. Delicious."

While players across the league, from Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson to now free-agent linebacker Bart Scott have expressed concerns about letting their sons play football, Roethlisberger --who has absorbed injuries to nearly every part of his body while playing for the Steelers -- said as long as Benjamin Jr. wants to play, it's fine by him.

With that out of the way, the only family debate about Roethlisberger's soon-to-be 7-month-old has been what name to call him.

"It depends who's around," Ken Roethlisberger said, with a laugh. "If Ashley's around, we call him Benjamin. If it's Ben and I, we call him Junior."

Ashley and Benjamin Jr. paced the sidelines of the football field Monday while Ben and a slew of coaches mentored about 500 boys and girls at Roethlisberger's annual two-day camp.

The kids, ages 7 to 14, went through various drills designed to teach proper catching and throwing techniques before scrimmages. A few lucky campers got to catch a pass from Roethlisberger, right knee remained wrapped two weeks removed from arthroscopic surgery.

Unlike past camps, Roethlisberger rode a bike around the complex in order to see more groups.

"It helps me get around faster than walking, and its probably better for my knee doing a little rehabbing while I'm helping the kids," he said.

Roethlisberger favored the knee slightly in the scrimmage, displaying Steri-Strips when he rolled the wrap down. He said his swelling and range of motion continue to improve.

Roethlisberger did his best to get all his receivers involved when he took over as quarterback, which likely is what he'll be doing this season now that top wide receiver Mike Wallace is gone to Miami and the availability of his tight end Heath Miller remains uncertain after major knee surgery.

"We're obviously young with some older guys mixed in but we've got a lot of guys that are still back," Roethlisberger said. "We've got Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Plaxico Burress, Jerricho Cotchery, so we've got guys. We're excited to see what the young guys are going to bring to the table."

As for Miller, "I hope I can throw to Heath for the rest of my career. I talked to him recently; he's doing good."

As Roethlisberger, 31, heads into his 10th NFL season, being a nurturing voice in the locker room is starting to become second nature, but nurturing a child of his own is an unending learning process.

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Nick Veronica: nveronica@post-gazette.com and Twitter @NickVeronica.


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