By Teresa Varley
The largest crowd of training camp packed St. Vincent College on Saturday and the 16,000 watching saw a good show.
"Today we had a phenomenal practice, we had some amazing plays," said wide receiver Hines Ward.
And it was Ward who teamed with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for one the best plays of the afternoon, when he made an acrobatic catch across the middle drawing plenty of cheers from the crowd.
Roethlisberger, who early in camp said it was taking some time for his arm to get back to it's normal strength, said he feels good and on Saturday it showed.
"It feels a lot better," said Roethlisberger. "It just takes a couple of days to get back in the groove of things and start throwing again. It feels really good. Coach (Mike Tomlin) gave me a day off this week and that really helped."
Another reason the offense looked so in tune is Ward has shaken off the cobwebs after missing practice early on in camp and is back in sync with Roethlisberger.
"It's good to get him back out there," said Roethlisberger. "We were a little off. You saw our night practice there were some things we weren't on the same page on. It's good he gets back out here and is healthy enough to run the routes. It's important that we are on the same page."
Ward agreed that practice on Friday wasn't his best, but that he was back in form on Saturday and that combined with the return of Heath Miller to practice was a key.
"Yesterday I was a little rusty," said Ward. "You always have to have that rapport. Now he is having his guys in there with Heath and I. Santonio (Holmes) is ahead of the curve because he has been there since day one. He is getting Heath and I into things and everyone is in the right spot at the right time. We had a good day."
The Steelers used their morning practice on Saturday to get some of the younger players work and develop things that Tomlin felt needed addressed.
"We had a shortened practice with just helmets to try to get rid of some recurring problems with our young players so we can move forward with those guys," said Tomlin. "I just think that is part of the maturation process, not only of a young player, but of a team at this time of year. I wanted to give those guys some quality reps, and we were able to do that. We came out this afternoon with our focus on everybody practicing, and I thought we had a good practice."
Tomlin was a little more vocal than normal and said it was simply because he wanted to get the problems worked out.
"The big thing is we were coming off a night practice (on Friday) with a young-guy emphasis," said Tomlin of the morning practice. "I didn't want to waste the morning. It was a good opportunity to address some reoccurring problems and lay them to bed permanently. Hopefully everybody is in tune with what we are trying to get done."
The Steelers have one practice on Sunday at 2:55 p.m. and Tomlin hinted that they could run the goal-line drill. "I would encourage you to show up tomorrow because you might see goal-line," Tomlin said when asked about the drill.
Willie Parker was held out of practice because he woke up with back spasms on Saturday. Others held out of practice were Scott Paxson with a calf strain and Brandon Williams with an abdominal strain. Mike Wallace (groin) and Keenan Lewis (back) ended practice a little early. Sonny Harris returned to practice.