Steelers' Tomlin makes best of odd Quarterback dilemma
June 11, 2010 4:00 AM
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger listens to head coach Mike Tomlin during Wednesday's practice at the team's facility on the South Side.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The game of hide and seek with Ben Roethlisberger continues. The Steelers' quarterback appeared on local television last night after remaining mum publicly for a week.
After a brief appearance with the Steelers April 19 and 20, he disappeared from their spring practices until June 1. Those practices came to an end Thursday, and he and the Steelers will reappear July 30 at training camp in Latrobe.
Then Roethlisberger will go into forced hiding again, starting the week of Sept. 5, for at least four weeks.
If commissioner Roger Goodell reduces his suspension, Roethlisberger will reappear with the Steelers the week of Oct. 10.
If it all sounds so confusing and convoluted, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin tried to put his spin on things Thursday after the final spring practice that was held behind closed gates at Heinz Field. Tomlin will be a pioneer coach for an unprecedented experience.
"We're kind of making it up as we go along," Tomlin said. "There's no blueprint for these situations or circumstances. And, even if there were, you wouldn't necessarily follow it.
"You try to do what is appropriate for this specific instance and situation and the men involved and what is best for this football team. So, even if there was a similar or like situation in another city at another time, it doesn't necessarily provide a blueprint because every situation and circumstance is different when you're dealing with people."
The Steelers began their spring practices with Roethlisberger as their No. 1 quarterback, a week before they learned of his suspension.
Before the draft, they traded for Byron Leftwich, who ran the rest of practices as the No. 1 quarterback -- including their five-practice minicamp April 30-May 2 -- until Roethlisberger returned June 1.
Since his return, Roethlisberger has taken all the snaps with the first team while Leftwich and Dennis Dixon have shared the remaining snaps, with Charlie Batch getting little work in full-team drills.
Whatever his plan, Tomlin stuck by his decision not to reveal it.
He insisted he has not settled on a starting quarterback in Roethlisberger's absence and even stated that Batch could still be the one.
He has not said how he will deploy four quarterbacks in camp, but did say that the time at St. Vincent College will be "very beneficial" to Roethlisberger, even though he will be barred from practicing with the Steelers for at least four weeks when the season starts.
"I think he's going to have the mentality like he always has when he reports to training camp," Tomlin said.
"And that's to put himself in position to be the very best he can be and be what we need him to be, and prepare himself for the season. He's still going to have the opportunity to do all these things."
Other points Tomlin made before bidding most of his team a seven-week goodbye:
• First-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey made a big impression and could be a strong candidate to start at right guard.
Tomlin would not rule him out of the competition to start at center, either.
"I think that he has proven to be mature beyond his years. His level of football maturity probably exceeds that of some 20-year-old first-round picks that we have had of recent years, like Lawrence Timmons and Rashard Mendenhall. He's got good football maturity. It's been a pleasant surprise. He's been comfortable at guard and center."
• Isaac Redman and rookie Jonathan Dwyer continue to surface as candidates to line up at running back in short-yardage situations.
"It is interesting; we've got some young guys in the backfield who might have a degree of pedigree that is geared towards those things."
• Second-round pick Jason Worilds has made good progress converting from college defensive end to outside linebacker with the Steelers.
"There is very little hesitation in his movement. He is decisive, and that shows a level of understanding. I am excited about what he has done at that standpoint at this juncture.''
• Other than wide receiver Limas Sweed's torn Achilles tendon, the Steelers made it through the spring with no more serious injuries.