On the Steelers: Roethlisberger 'sharp'

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Physically and mentally, Ben Roethlisberger looked "sharp" in his first week back in practice with the Steelers, according to coach Mike Tomlin.

Now comes the next test, playing in his first real game since he helped the Steelers beat the Dolphins in Miami Jan. 3.

"He looked good," Tomlin said Thursday after the conclusion of the team's off week. "No question that he has taken advantage of his down time or time away from us. He has utilized it and continued to prepare himself.

"Of course, what he has done with that time ultimately is going to measure in how he performs. He understands that, we understand that and we will push forward to next week with that understanding."

Tomlin did not let up during his team's off week, as he did last year when he held just one practice. But then, last season, the Steelers hit their open week on a roll, four consecutive victories to go 5-2. They followed their off week with a victory in Denver to go 6-2.

The Steelers lost Sunday at home to Baltimore, 17-14, to run their record to 3-1 and a tie for first place in the AFC North.

During a normal week with a game on Sunday, the Steelers practice three days, and that is what Tomlin put them through this week with full practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The only concession he made was to give his seniors a rest. Five of them did not practice -- quarterback Charlie Batch, defensive end Aaron Smith, wide receiver Hines Ward, linebacker James Farrior and tackle Flozell Adams.

Tomlin also mixed things up by having the first teams practice against each other and by pitting some young players against one another.

"Guys like Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler, pitted against Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, those are some of the highlights," Tomlin said. "But we have a lot of young guys and of course, like I mentioned to our team this week, the bye is coming in the early portion of the season. So it is important that we took advantage of it in the proper manner and probably address it differently then had this bye occurred a month from now."

Tomlin said he took no satisfaction from his team's 3-1 record through the first quarter of the season even though they were without their first two quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich. Leftwich had been slated to start the season but has not played because he sprained the MCL in his left knee Sept. 2, the final preseason game.

"I don't measure it in that way," Tomlin said. "I don't measure it quarterly or anything of that nature. I know what you mean, it's just that we are on a journey and I am not going to analyze it, I am going to live it. The things that we do we understand are going to determine how it unfolds, so I am going to keep my head down."

Tomlin must decide who now will be his No. 2 quarterback. Batch started the past two games and played three-fourths of the second game after Dennis Dixon was injured. Dixon had surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

Leftwich has been the No. 2 quarterback the past two games but has not played and still wears a brace on his left knee.

The transition with Roethlisberger went well this week, both in their clubhouse and on the field. But, as Tomlin noted: "Practicing is one thing and playing is another. So I think his quote-unquote transition, I think when you ask that question you are talking about playing and we have yet to play. So we will see how that goes."

For more on the Steelers, read the blog Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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