By Teresa Varley
The Steelers held their first practice of training camp on Saturday morning and afterwards quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made it clear that his focus is on one thing and one thing only, football.
"This is what I do, it's football," said Roethlisberger. "I come out here and I play football."
Some of the gathered media tried to get Roethlisberger to talk about the potential distraction regarding a civil lawsuit he is facing, but he was all about football.
"I'm playing football," said Roethlisberger. "It's what I love being out here doing."
While Roethlisberger didn't address any off the field issues with the media, he did talk to his teammates in a closed door meeting on Friday night.
"He apologized. We went on about it," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We went to the next phase of our meeting. It wasn't a very long speech or anything; he just apologized for the media attention that was brought upon this team and this organization. We moved on and we think everything will be handled accordingly."
It was the first time back on the field for the Steelers since the end of coaching sessions in mid-June and it was a welcome return.
"I feel good," said Roethlisberger. "The arm is going to be sore this afternoon but it was good, it was fun. It's good to get out here with the guys again and see some of the rookies in pads and see how they play."
One rookie he will be keeping an eye on is wide receiver Mike Wallace, one of the team's third round picks this season.
"You know he is really fast, we are just going to focus on catching the ball," said Roethlisberger.
Second-year wide receiver Limas Sweed is another player he will be keeping an eye on, as he is in competition for the third receiver spot.
"He is doing well," said Roethlisberger. "We are moving a lot of our guys around and we are trying to give them different chances. We are moving Santonio (Holmes) into the slot a little bit, but it's going to be good. It's going to be hard for him this training camp to learn multiple positions but I think they are all up for the challenge and I think they will all be good."
One thing that was missing on the field for Roethlisberger on Saturday morning was starting center Justin Hartwig, who will be limited at the start of camp because of a toe injury.
"I am pushing to get him back as soon as I can just to have my center in there," said Roethlisberger. "We don't want to rush him because we don't want him to get hurt any worse."
Roethlisberger knows that the Steelers will head into the 2009 season with a target on their backs as the defending Super Bowl champions. It's the same scenario they faced in 2006 when they came off winning Super Bowl XL, but this time around they are hoping for better results than the 8-8 finish that year.
"Everyone is gunning for you, we learned that after the last time that everyone wants to come after you and get you and we can't take anyone lightly," said Roethlisberger. "We know everyone is coming for us.
"It helps to have been there before because you kind of know what to expect and how to deal with it. We've got enough veterans on the team to deal with it. It's just about coming out and being focused on us and not about everyone else."
Roethlisberger is happy to have tight end Heath Miller under contract through the 2014 season.
**"I am really glad," said Roethlisberger. "When Heath first got here I told him I think we are going to be here together for a long time and we are. To me Heath does not get even close to the credit he deserves. He is one of the best, if not the best, all-around tight ends in the game. He doesn't get that credit because he doesn't put up the big numbers. If you ask anybody that goes against him or anybody on this team, anybody that knows tight ends they will tell you how good he is.
"He was very deserving of what he got. I am glad he is gong to be with me for a long time. He is a pretty good player."