It took only one play for the Pittsburgh Steelers to realize Ben Roethlisberger hadn't changed a bit.
“He threw me a long bomb right on the money,” receiver Mike Wallace said about the first play of Roethlisberger’s return to practice last week. “I guess it was kind of like a statement, letting them know, ‘I’m here.’ ”
But to hear Roethlisberger tell it, the old Big Ben is long gone.
“I’m going back to the person I was raised to be, the person I was before all this,” the quarterback said this week. “It’s not like I’m going back to being Big Ben and having all these issues.”
Those issues have had Roethlisberger in the harsh light of scrutiny for the past five months. He returned during the Steelers’ week off from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He will resume his career as a starter today in a home game against Cleveland.
There’s no need to remind the people of Pittsburgh that Roethlisberger was missing. The Steelers (3-1) are ranked last in passing yards (136.0 a game) and pass attempts (81). Pro Bowl receiver Hines Ward leads them in receptions – and he has 12 in four games. Because of injuries the Steelers have already cycled through quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch.
That sets the stage for Roethlisberger’s return, and the expectations for him are lofty. Said Wallace: “He’s a huge part of our offense. We have our leader back.”
Roethlisberger’s career in Pittsburgh depends on his doing a far better job of leading by example. His suspension stemmed from a sexual assault complaint in Georgia. The allegations did not result in criminal charges, but he continues to be under the microscope for his behavior.
Fellow Steelers say they notice positive changes, but Steelers fan Albert Donnenberg, a University of Pittsburgh medical professor, scoffs at the notion athletes are seen as role models.
“I’m a scientist,” he said, “so I look at it this way: The joint probability of being a moral role model and an elite athlete? Forget about it. Ben’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”
The Giants signed kicker Shayne Graham because of Lawrence Tynes’ left ankle injury suffered Friday while practicing kickoffs. Tynes’ status is uncertain, prompting the signing of Graham, the Ravens’ final cut this season. The Colts ruled three more players out of today’s game at Washington. Running back Donald Brown (hamstring), receiver Anthony Gonzalez (ankle) and nickel cornerback Jacob Lacey (foot) did not travel with the team Saturday. Brett Favre will be interviewed by a member of the NFL’s security team Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell told NBC. NFL vice president of security Milt Ahlerich will meet with the Vikings’ quarterback in the Twin Cities to discuss allegations that Favre sent inappropriate pictures and messages to former Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger when he played for the team in 2008. The Lions and tight end Tony Scheffler have agreed to a three-year extension.