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No news on day of Ben's return


As for the news of the day, there was none.

In recent times, news has come to be confused with hype, and the phalanx of satellite trucks in the parking lot of the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on Tuesday promised to deliver bushels of that. But on the first day of June – as so often is the case in NFL cities at this point in the calendar – nothing really happened.

That Ben Roethlisberger had been cleared by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to return to team activities beginning this week had been known since last Thursday, and word filtered out early on June 1 that neither Roethlisberger nor Coach Mike Tomlin would be available to the media. Then, Byron Leftwich sucked the last legitimate newsy angle from the whole day by not being on hand for the workout, thereby eliminating the possibility of making something out of whether it would be Roethlisberger or Leftwich at quarterback with the first-team offense.

As it was, Roethlisberger essentially replaced Leftwich during the day's drills, with no other changes to the previous Ben-less pecking order that had Dennis Dixon at quarterback with the 2s and Charlie Batch at quarterback with the 3s.

To sum up, there was no suspense as to when Roethlisberger was going to return, nothing to discern regarding the division of practice repetitions, and no comments from either Tomlin or Roethlisberger at the end of the day.

The only real test to which Roethlisberger was subjected was the eye test, and while he certainly looked to be slim and trim in the uniform of the day, he also looked like a quarterback whose timing and accuracy indicated he hadn't done a whole lot of practicing of late with his teammates, which he had not, per the terms of the suspension initially levied by Goodell back in late April.

The demands of today's round-the-clock news cycle will ensure that everything Roethlisberger will be reported, discussed, blogged and tweeted to death, but the reality is that from a purely football standpoint, nobody knows what to expect from a situation where a starting quarterback will be suspended – at least – for the first four games of his team's regular season, and nobody knows how best to prepare him – and the rest of the team – for that eventuality.

Because the terms of any NFL suspension prohibit the player from having any contact with the team in terms of practicing, meetings, supervised individual workouts and the like for the duration, Roethlisberger is facing a minimum four-week absence from every aspect of his job come the start of the regular season.

Can repetitions in June OTAs, or in training camp, or in the preseason games for that matter, somehow compensate for those weeks? Is there such a thing as a preemptive treatment for rust?

The larger issue in all of this is the progress being made, and still to be made, by Roethlisberger with respect to the terms of his suspension and to make the necessary changes in his life to work himself back into the good graces of the NFL and the Steelers. To rehabilitate himself and his image.

But those are real-life things not to be judged in the media or on message boards, and progress in those areas certainly should not be expected to conform to news cycles or be expected to cater to the daily demands of sports talk radio.

As for the pure football significance of June 1 on the Steelers 2010 season, nothing happened. Film at 11.

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