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Camp Blog: Week 5 recap

Ben wants reps: It's a preseason game, but for Ben Roethlisberger, it doesn't matter.

He wants to play.

Roethlisberger, who is entering his 18th season, will start against the Detroit Lions on Saturday night at Heinz Field, his first action of the preseason.

And he said it's important that he plays, especially with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan.

"We have a new system," said Roethlisberger. "There's a new coach to player communication in terms of a new guy. The offense is different. He's up in the box as compared to on the field. There is a lot of newness. I think it's prudent to get as much time as I can under those circumstances."

Coach Mike Tomlin didn't give any indication as to how much time Roethlisberger would see during his weekly press conference on Thursday, but Roethlisberger indicated it will be how he feels.

"I would love to get as many reps as I can," said Roethlisberger. "It's been how many months since I've actually stepped on the football field to take a hit? I know it's preseason, but still just meaningful reps. With the newness of it I'd definitely like to get as much as I can.

"I guess it depends on how we're doing, how it feels. I really wanted to try and play last week because it was on the road and that would have been our first opportunity to play on the road and the situation, with circumstances like crowd noise and things like that before we go into a very hostile environment in week one. But Coach, I couldn't talk him into it."

Roethlisberger said one of the things he likes most about the changes in Canada's offense is that it's new, it's different, and he has spent a lot of time studying it.

"The challenge of newness," said Roethlisberger. "I spent a lot of time at home, going over it, reading it, watching film. I was telling my wife the other night that I think maybe it's even better that there's some new stuff because it almost refocuses you in a way. If this was still the same stuff, I would probably go home and be like okay I'll watch the film and be ready to move on. But last night I watched the film, and I went back over everything again to refresh my mind. I think because it's different. I want to make sure that I'm not the reason that we struggle.

"Some of the new concepts I'll have it and I'll go home and I'll look at it and I'm like wait, what is this guy…if you think about it on every pass play for instance, I have to know what five guys are doing. It's not just one guy or just what I'm doing. So, I have to know who the hot is and what each specific guy is doing so there'll be times that I know what maybe three of them are doing and will be like, 'Wait, what's this guy doing again.' I just have to just try and refresh in my mind."

Roethlisberger got extra reps in practice throughout this week to prepare for Saturday night, nixing his normal day off just to get the extra reps.

"I asked Coach if I could take as many reps as I could this week just because it's been a while, and I wanted to kind of simulate a game week," said Roethlisberger. "Obviously, Wednesdays I'll have off typically, but I just want to get as many reps as I could this week."

With training camp at Heinz Field coming to an end, Roethlisberger said that he is feeling great still and ready to go.

"I feel great," said Roethlisberger. "My arm feels really fresh and feels good and feels kind of back to normal."

Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field

Wednesday, August 18

What he wants: There has been a lot of talk lately about what receiver James Washington wants.

And on Wednesday, he made it clear.

He just wants to help his team win.

"I just want to compete and help the team win," said Washington. "It gives me that drive to want to get out there and put my hand in the pile and just help the team to victory.

"Continue to show my strength and improve my weaknesses. Just keeping it on their minds that this is what I am good at and show I am trying to improve in other areas as well."

Washington's name was in the news recently when reports surfaced that he asked for a trade. He was asked about the rumor and chose to keep it private. 

"That's a little private conversation," said Washington. "As far as me being happy in Pittsburgh, I love it here. Who wouldn't be happy playing football as their job? I come to work every day with a smile on my face. I'm eager to be here with my guys, joking around and laughing around, playing the sport that I love and continuing to play the sport that I love and just enjoying life."

Washington had 30 receptions for 392 yards and five touchdowns in 2020, after catching 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. He saw more work in practice on Wednesday with Chase Claypool not working because of an injury and is making the most of it.

"With Chase down, I worked with the ones a little bit more," Washington said. "All I can do is keep capitalizing and make the most of every rep when I'm in there.

"I'm just trying to do what I can. I want to show people that I can be available and make a play that you want me to make. Just do what I need to do.

"Just come to work every day and being available. Just doing what got me to this point so far. That's all I can do. I can't control what other people do. Just control what I can do."

Staying focused: Cody White knows if he wants to break the 53-man roster, he has to stand out.

And the first-year wide receiver has been doing that in many ways. Including many times being the first player on on the field, and the last player off the field on a regular basis. White is normally out there with Lou Balde, an equipment assistant, catching passes and getting extra work in.

"I am really just focused on myself," said White. "I am trying to be the best receiver I can be. I come out early and try to get some catches with my guy Lou, who is out there every day. After practice I try to do the same thing. Just make sure my hands are the best that they can be."

White has been working with the first-team in practice, getting valuable reps that can do nothing but add to his case to break into a crowded wide receiver group. He is also getting plenty of work on special teams, another way to earn a spot when things get crowded.

"It's been good being able to get some first team reps, being able to know all of the positions and be able to play everywhere on the offense," said White. "Also, I have been playing all four core special teams, trying to get a spot any way I can.

"I just try to come in every day and give it my all. Hopefully things work out my way. Just trying to make the 53 and go from there. Just keep working every day, bringing my all and going 110% every day."

White spent the majority of the 2020 season on the Steelers practice squad. While he didn't see any game action, he learned on a daily basis going up against the Steelers secondary.

"Going against Joe Haden, Steve Nelson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, getting me better every day," said White. "Going against the top guys in the league I feel like it helped me."

What else has helped him is his background in football. His father, Sheldon White, played in the NFL for six years and worked for the Detroit Lions in the front office for 19 years. He went on to be the executive director of player personnel and recruiting for Michigan State and is now a college scout for the Washington Football Team.

"I have around the game since I was about five years old, on the sideline with him, going to his office," said White. "Football has always been a part of my life. I've always felt like he has given me tips because he played in the league. Being able to have that in my family and be around that growing up I feel like it helps me a lot."

He said it: Running back Kalen Ballage
"This is by far the best organization I have been a part of. It's a lot more professional. At the same time, it's not so professional that they don't care about the person. It's much closer here. It feels much more like a family from the top down. Everybody speaks to you. Everybody says hi. What can I do for you? Everybody has this 'serve' mentality. You service each other and I think that is the reason this organization has had success."

Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field

Tuesday, August 17

In season prep: The Steelers are wrapping up their Heinz Field portion of training camp this week, with just one more practice open to the public on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

While they are in training camp mode still, Coach Mike Tomlin had the team work in an in-season mode on Tuesday, simulating what a normal in-season Wednesday would be like as they prepare to take on the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field on Saturday night.

"We went through the structure of a normal in-season Wednesday in terms of laying foundational things relative to this week's opponent," said Tomlin. "Talking about high volume stuff. Our utilization of personnel, our work groups and things of that nature, how we intend to divide the labor up. A dry run if you will, not in totality by any stretch.

"It's been a good process for us. We'll continue to push forward and introduce them to what a week's prep is like. It's important they find their rhythm within that. The things they do to take care of their body. The things they do to prepare for each day in anticipation of the materials they're going to receive. There's a lot of irons in the fire this week. We're excited about the work. Hopefully it culminates in quality performance at the end of it. That's the intentions."

He said it: Tomlin on if Kendrick Green is currently the starting center:

"You can surmise that, but there will be no bold announcements."

Time change: The Steelers have changed their training camp practice times for Wednesday, Aug. 18, the final practices open to the public at Heinz Field.

Practice will now begin at 1:30 p.m.

Fans must have a ticket to attend practice, but tickets are free and can be obtained by visiting the Steelers Training Camp page, where you will find all camp details to help with your visit.

Take a closer look at the best photos of wide receivers from the 2021 Steelers Camp

Teaming up: The Steelers, Heinz Field Management and Giant Eagle Pharmacy will offer a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic for those attending Saturday night's preseason game versus the Detroit Lions. The clinic will be held pregame, from 5-7:30 p.m., on the Main Concourse West and Ford Fan Zone Plaza East.

Fans who want to receive a vaccine are asked to bring Photo ID and medical insurace card.

More information is available here.

Monday, August 16

A different view: Eddie Faulkner is no different than the rest of us.

The Steelers running backs coach has been enjoying watching what first-round pick Najee Harris can do so far in training camp and the preseason, but he has to do one thing differently than those in the stands at Heinz Field.

He can't watch him as a fan.

"The more reps he gets, the better he gets," said Faulkner. "When you have a talent like that as a coach, you want to get most out of him. You put the pressure on yourself to make sure he knows what he's doing. Then you have to make sure you're not catching yourself watching like a fan, too, because there are things that happen out there and you're like, 'Man, did you just see that?'"

Faulkner prepares Harris and all his running backs with some of the most imaginative drills he can find, always mixing it up and keeping things fresh, so they can learn and grow continually. He also spends time with him in the classroom, and Harris has been a quick study.

"I always try to come up with something to coach him up on, some detail so we can continue to push that train down the track and get him as good as he can be by game one," said Faulkner. "He's got an appetite for everything that is football related. It's not like you even have to wind him up. He is special in that regard."

Time change: The Steelers have changed their training camp practice times for both Tuesday, Aug. 17 and Wednesday, Aug. 18, the final two practices open to the public at Heinz Field.

Practice will now begin at 1:30 p.m. each day.

Fans must have a ticket to attend practice, but tickets are free and can be obtained by visiting the Steelers Training Camp page, where you will find all camp details to help with your visit.

Take a closer look at the best photos of running backs from the 2021 Steelers Camp