Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seemed calm and confident yesterday, out to prove to one person that last year was a fluke. That person is Big Ben himself.
"You can say all you want that you have to prove it to the fans and the media," Roethlisberger said. "I'm just trying to prove to myself that I can do it and my career's not over and last year was a fluke. It was a bad year and we still ended up 8-8 with a bad year. So I think we can come out and do better and I can do better."
Roethlisberger ran the run test on Monday even though he didn't have to because he qualified for a pass by making at least 44 of the 50 offseason workouts.
"I was trying to be a leader,'' Roethlisberger said. "I saw my line was going to run. I wanted to run with those guys and be out there with them."
Whistling through practice
Whistles are making a comeback on NFL training camp practice fields, and they may have made their first appearance at Saint Vincent College.
Whistles have been a part of football practices since football and whistles were invented. They're so important to the game that they are banned from stadiums.
But the staffs of Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher didn't use whistles in practices. Noll or his coaches would scream out something if they wanted someone's attention.
The air horn made its first appearance in 1992 under Cowher.
Yesterday, coaching whistles blew all over the place. It sounded like a YMCA pool.
Receiver Hines Ward had the quote of the day, when talk at lunchtime turned to Cowher.
"I thought I saw him up in the sky box looking down on us," Ward said, referring to the new press box at Saint Vincent's Chuck Noll Field, where the Steelers practice. "Maybe he was scouting -- I mean spying -- for the Cleveland Browns."
Rookie linebacker LaMarr Woodley is going to be one heck of a pass rusher. It was only the first day of drills and the running backs hate linebackers on backs drill -- a pass protection, one-on-one drill -- but Woodley ate Najeh Davenport for lunch, twice. That followed up a great spring for Woodley.
"I thought he did well in that drill," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He showed what he's capable of. He's a rush man. It's somewhat of a mismatch sometimes when LaMarr Woodley gets on a running back, so really you kind of expected him to get after some folks and I think he handled himself and handled the drill pretty well."
Dwain Painter, now a coach/scout for the CFL, and Joe Greene, a scout for the Steelers, chatted along the sideline. They were on Noll's staff together until Noll retired after the 1991 season. Painter, a former quarterback at Gateway High School, has been on the go as a coach for decades. Greene looks better than he has in years after acquiring a new hip a year ago and losing weight. He could now be Lean Joe Greene.
Tomlin cuts a much different figure than Cowher on a practice field. Cowher would wear shorts, a light shirt, a large straw hat. Tomlin dressed all in black, at least yesterday -- long pants, long shirt, sunglasses, black baseball cap. He also wears his dorm room key on a string around his neck, just like everyone else.
Practice started with special teams yesterday morning. If the Steelers do not improve on special teams this year, it won't be for a lack of practice. Tomlin even has scheduled seven one-hour morning sessions devoted to special teams in camp.
Verron Haynes watched morning practice with ice on his surgically repaired left knee. Part of the training camp drama will be to see if some young back -- John Kuhn or rookie Gary Russell? -- can take Haynes' roster spot. Haynes remains on the physically unable to perform list.
A botched punt return by Ricardo Colclough helped the Steelers lose at home to Cincinnati last year and seemingly set the pace for the rest of the season. Here, then, were the candidates lined up for the first punt return practice of camp: Colclough, Cedrick Wilson, Willie Reid, Jovon Johnson, Dan Sheldon and Chris Jackson. Santonio Holmes presumably will join him when he recovers from an unnamed non-football "procedure." Reid was drafted last year to return punts, but Cowher did not find a way to dress him for games until after the Colclough disaster and the first three games. He played in one game, left with a sprained foot and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.