Ben Roethlisberger does not seem as concerned about his "little torn rotator cuff" in his right arm, nor as worried about the new offense and turning 30, as he is eager to see Mike Wallace rejoin the Steelers in training camp.
Toward that end, Roethlisbeger has spoken regularly with Wallace since camp opened and even told Steelers president Art Rooney that first day at Saint Vincent College that he would fly to Louisiana to talk to his top receiver if he thought it was a good idea. He did not.
"I've tried to be proactive and talk to Mike," Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazette today. "I just want to encourage him, let him know we love him, he's a great teammate, he's a great friend.
Steelers Report: Updates on Mike Wallace, Big Ben's injury
The PG's Ed Bouchette talks about Ben Roethlisberger's advice to Mike Wallace on keeping the lines of communication open with the Steelers. He also talks about Big Ben's rotator cuff injury. (Video by Peter Diana; 8/1/2012)
"We just want him to get here as soon as he can. Obviously, this is a business and he has to do what's best for him. I don't know what's going on or what's offered. But I just want Mike to be happy and I want him to be here because he's a great asset to the team."
Wallace skipped all the team's spring workouts and has stayed away from training camp. He received no offers as a restricted free agent this year after the Steelers tendered him a one-year, $2.742 million contract that remains on the table. They had been negotiating a multiple-year deal but that ended with his holdout. General manager Kevin Colbert said negotiations will not resume until he signs the one-year contract and reports to the team.
In his talks with Wallace, Roethlisberger has come to the conclusion that it will not be long now.
"I don't know what's going on with his agent or what they're telling each other, but he wants to be here," Roethlisberger said. "I believe he will be here and I think he'll be here soon."
Once he rejoins the Steelers, he will get a crash course in Todd Haley's new offense, and have some expensive tutors.
"I'm sure as soon as he's here he will pick it up," Roethlisberger predicted. "He plays one position, and that's great, so he can just learn his spot. I think when he gets here, we'll make sure, and I'll work extra with him, I'll stay after practice if we have to. Anything to get him up to speed and get ready to roll."
For the record, Roethlisberger likes the new offense and says he and Haley get along well -- and he does not believe his right arm will hold back that offense. It was injured in the Steelers Nov. 6 loss to Baltimore. He mentioned it in the spring but this is the first time he's publicly called it a rotator cuff tear. However, he says it feels fine, that his arm feels strong and that it should not hamper any of his throws.
"I'm good. It's OK, just sore," he said when asked about his arm injury. "I have a little torn rotator cuff. That doesn't heal. We just have to hope it doesn't tear the rest of the way, according to Doc," he said, laughing.
After practice, coach Mike Tomlin said there was no concern about Roethlisberger's arm and he is not limited in making any throws. But Roethlisberger said he does take some precautions before practice, and not just because of the injury.
"It's part of getting older, too. If you watch walk-throughs, I used to throw all the time. Now it's just backing off. Now I don't ever throw during walk-throughs. It's less throwing; I think that's smart anyway. As you get older, you just need to take care of yourself whether you're hurt or not."
Suddenly, even the soreness seemed to disappear.
"It actually feels great,'' Roethlisberger said. "I don't have any pains anymore. Let's just hope it doesn't get any worse."
What has gotten better is his understanding of Haley's offense. Their relationship is growing and the shock value of having his mentor and friend, Bruce Arians, shown the door as coordinator by the Steelers in January has worn off.
"Obviously, things got blown up early on," Roethlisberger said of the firing/hiring. His relationship with Haley "really has been good, it's been good ebb and flow, talking, changing things; he's been open to hearing some change, I've been open to changes from him. So it's been really good. Every day we learn something new about either each other, the relationship, the offense, something. We take it, we run with it and we're not looking back."
Roethlisberger also acknowledged liking the new offense.
"I think it gives us great opportunities to use the weapons we have. We're still learning it, I mean, we put in part of the offense, we haven't even seen it all yet . . . Once we start getting week to week, we'll see how the game-planning starts going, the play calling in the game, even the preseason I'm looking forward to kind of seeing his mentality when it comes to a game."
The Steelers practiced the no-huddle offense for the first time on Tuesday, and Haley talked about using it more often this season, something Roethlisberger enjoys hearing. Haley also said he will help him call the plays until he becomes more familiar with them, then turn the whole thing over to his quarterback.
"He would tell me the play and I would call it," Roethlisberger said of Tuesday's drills. "I was fine with that. In the past, I wouldn't have liked it too much. Right now, I'm for him helping me out because I don't know it well enough yet and I don't want to put us in a bad situation.
"I enjoy it, I'm out there, I can see what's going on, get the ball to certain guys. I do enjoy it, I think it's a great up-tempo. I know for a fact our offensive guys love it because they've come to me many times in the past, 'Why don't we do more huddle? We love when you get it'. Everybody gets into a flow, you get into a rhythm and it feels like the right thing to do at the time."
One thing Haley and Roethlisberger are still working on is when to dump the ball off to a back when the main receivers are not open. Haley wants to see more of it, Roethlisberger would still like to check more secondary receivers. Haley emphasizes that he wants his quarterbacks to make quick decisions and get rid of the ball, even if that means a "check down" to a back. Roethlisberger, of course, has made a reputation as a scrambling gunslinger at times.
They are trying to find that happy medium.
"You can tell that his philosophy is, find your first receiver, if he's not there, find the back. That doesn't always work. I think that's good in theory but I think we have guys you can look for multiple options. You can look to Mike or Antonio [Brown] or Emmanuel [Sanders] and then find Heath [Miller] and then go to the back. We've been able to do that in the past where you look to one side and then go to the other.
"I think you have to know where the back is at all the time. I think that's his big emphasis, just know where the back is at all times. There are times the back won't be able to get out because he's helping to block. Just know where he is when things break down. I need to always focus where the back is. We've done a good job of that in practice. It's not necessarily, 'OK, let's get the ball to the back all the time,' its just know where the back is."
First Published August 1, 2012 7:30 PM