By Teresa Varley
The Steelers have just three more practices before OTAs come to an end next week and head coach Mike Tomlin is pleased with the progress to date.
"They are going well," said Tomlin after Thursday's session. "We are having a productive off-season and that is what we are here for. We are here to get better individually and collectively and I think we are doing that."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who admitted he is looking forward to the offseason program coming to an end so they get time to rest before training camp starts in late July, is also happy with the way things have gone.
"We're having a good time," said Tomlin. "I think we are doing well. We are learning and getting better."
Guard Chris Kemoeatu has a real challenge ahead of him – and it's not just a battle for a starting spot on the offensive line, but instead taking over for seven-time Pro Bowler Alan Faneca.
Kemoeatu seems to have the inside track on the job, as long as he plays to the level all think he can. But the one thing he has to beware of is trying to do too much as he works to replace Faneca.
"The biggest thing is he doesn't come in and try to fill Alan's shoes," said Roethlisberger. "That's not the way you do it. You don't try and fill someone's shoes. You come in and do what you do. Chris is a great offensive lineman and I think he is going to do great. I have a lot of confidence in him. I know he has confidence in himself. "
Kemoeatu, who was hampered some during OTAs with a hamstring injury, has been praised by teammates and coaches for his knowledge and the few errors he makes.
"As I get to know him he has a better understanding of what is going on," said Tomlin. "He doesn't make mistakes. The more you watch him the more you realize he doesn't make mistakes. He knows what is going on. He is a big, powerful man."
He isn't a big talker but instead someone who likes to let his actions speak louder than his words.
"All I can do is come to work every day, watch film and practice to the best of my ability and just try to be me," said Kemoeatu.
Having gone through OTAs and off-season workouts Roethlisberger has a better understanding of Bruce Arians' offense, but that doesn't mean things will be perfect. Roethlisberger said he expects less sacks this year, after getting tackled 47 times last year, but they won't be eliminated.
"I'm still going to get (sacked), because I'm still going to try to scramble and make plays," said Roethlisberger. "You look at all the big plays we've made, and then you take the sacks. You kind of have to live with it."
Rookie Limas Sweed got some work on special teams during OTAs where the coaches think he can be an asset because of his size, speed and long arms.
"Coach (Bob Ligashesky) said he likes me coming off the edge, using my speed to block punts," said Sweed. "I never did special teams in my life until I came here, and I actually like it."