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06-02-2010, 11:37 AM
Ben Roethlisberger is back.

After being cleared by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week to return to the Steelers for offseason workouts, Ben was present at OTA's here on Tuesday to start June.

Roethlisberger will have five additional optional spring workouts to attend through next week before the squad breaks for the summer. #7 came back on a day where Byron Leftwich was not present, an absence that was according to team officials expected as Byron had a pre-scheduled matter to attend to. Leftwich is reportedly expected to return for Wednesday's session.

With Byron out for the day, Roethlisberger took over all first-team reps in team drills. The 11-on-11 action started with a "pass under pressure" drill featuring Ben in a shotgun-empty set formation for the first three plays. Ben connected on his first pass on a quick route to Arnaz Battle.

Left tackle Max Starks said Ben's first drill was "just one of our new three step protections that we put in actually last week, and we wanted to rep it today. It's almost like a screen for us. It wasn't like a seven-step drop on an empty set or anything like that (laughs), that's when we start [to] cringe."

When asked what the rotation of QBs might be like when Leftwich does return, Starks said, "that's a good question, I imagine switching [series] or if not each guy will take a different rep. I mean we have four quarterbacks and three teams, there has to be some type of rotation. For us it doesn't matter who's behind us calling the plays just as long as they get the ball snapped to them. Each quarterback has a different cadence but we've played with all of them we know all their cadences."

As for team reaction to having Roethlisberger back around, one of Ben's closer friends on the team DE Brett Keisel said "I think it's good for him to be around us and to be working. I'm happy that he's back. He's been working hard at home and he wants to be great this year. Hopefully he will. I don't know that he's really asked for advice; we talk about a lot of stuff. We're friends and that's what friends do. Any way I can help him he knows I'm there for him."

LB Larry Foote even went so far as to refute some of the reports of Ben being poorly received in the past by teammates in the locker room. "As far as the teammate and in the locker room that stuff is ridiculous," said Foote. "As far as his work ethic and commitment you don't win two Super Bowls without sacrificing and giving something up. As far as a leader you don't see many quarterbacks sticking in there and giving up his body for the team. He put it on the line every week, and just that alone we have respect and admiration for him."

Foote continued, "In the locker room I've never seen the stuff I'm hearing. He's a good high quality guy in the locker room. Everybody makes mistakes and we've got to learn from it. It's way overblown and I feel bad the black eye he's getting from this and people throwing stones. You know he made bad decisions, he's got to put himself in better situations but that comes with maturity. He's still a young man, plays a kid's game, has a lot of money. I'm quite sure he learned his lesson the hard way. But as far the character thing and people taking shots at the type of leader in the locker room& that's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous."

In March ESPN's news magazine show Outside the Lines ran a special feature on Roethlisberger during which former teammates Najeh Davenport and Mike Logan described a team meeting in 2005 when the QB was called out by Joey Porter for being a poor teammate. Foote said, "We had a meeting but that was nobody taking shot, it was an encouraging thing. It wasn't taking a shot at Ben, not at all. He [Joey] was addressing the whole team, he was calling everybody out."

By all accounts Roethlisberger did not address his teammates in any kind of formal way today nor did any teammates express a desire for him to do so. Ben did make the rounds on the practice fields with certain guys, shaking hands with new first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey. Roethlisberger threw with Charlie Batch off to the side for quite a while, and then slapped high 5's with every member of the starting defense as has been his custom through the years before stepping into the offensive huddle for team drills.

Ben also did not speak with the media today and it is unclear when or if he will do so here in the spring.

Players not attending practice today included Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, and James Harrison in addition to Leftwich and Thaddeus Gibson. Starting on defense in place of the absentees were Ryan Mundy and Will Allen at safety, William Gay (and some Keenan Lewis) rotating across from Bryant McFadden at cornerback, and Andre Frazier at OLB.

A brief scuffle broke out after a play between rookie wideout Antonio Brown and Lewis, but it was broken up quickly. Brown said "just competitive nature, third week in, tensions rising. At the end of the day we're all a team. When we go in the locker room we're buddies. I felt like I had a good block on him and I think he was mad but we can't all be setting that example. I take the blame, and I'm going to relax."