As camp opens, Steelers marvel at Big Ben's recovery

LATROBE, Pa. -- When the Pittsburgh Steelers players first
heard about Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident six weeks ago,
many feared the worst -- worried more about him living, not about
whether he would play football again.

"A lot of players thought he was on his deathbed," Hines Ward
said as the Steelers opened training camp Friday.

Instead, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback is expected to be
right there with his teammates when they go through their annual
running test Saturday. He's a not-so-big Ben now, having lost some
weight as his broken jaw heals, but he's in much better shape than
they possibly could have imagined.

During the June 12 accident near downtown Pittsburgh,
Roethlisberger flew off his high-performance motorcycle and landed
headfirst on a car windshield, resulting in numerous cuts and so
much bleeding that he was told he easily could have bled to death
at the scene.

"But you look at him, and it's like nothing's happened to
him," guard Kendall Simmons said. "I'm impressed with the way he
looks and I'm excited about him going back out there and throwing
the ball around a little bit."

That might occur as early as Sunday, when the Steelers hold the
first practice of their 40th training camp at St. Vincent College.

"Everybody has a sense of relief that goes back to the point
where we learned Ben would make a full recovery," director of
football operations Kevin Colbert said. "To be available right
now, it's really, truly a blessing. We're happy not only for him
but for Ben the person, to be able to function fully."

Colbert said there are no plans to put Roethlisberger on the
physically unable to perform list, a procedural move that would
allow the Steelers to activate him after the season started if it
turned out he needed more recovery time.

Apparently, there's no need for that. The Steelers expect him to
be ready for the Sept. 7 opener against Miami, and Roethlisberger
likely will take about as many snaps in exhibition play as he did
last year -- or, not very many.

"Everything has worked out for the best," Ward said.

Most of his teammates have seen Roethlisberger since the
accident, as he attended the now-retired Jerome Bettis' recent
wedding in Jamaica. Several players said Friday that he apologized
to them then, saying he never meant to jeopardize their chances of
repeating their Super Bowl championship by getting hurt riding his
motorcycle without a helmet.

Ward said there was no second-guessing of Roethlisberger by

"We all make mistakes in life, and it's an unfortunate incident
that happened," Ward said. "We're not going to harp on the past.
It's just great to have him in camp early."

Roethlisberger did not speak to reporters Friday, but is
expected to talk following Saturday's run test.

As the Steelers players rolled into camp before their 6 p.m.
reporting deadline, one trend quickly developed: There were no
Super Bowl rings in evidence, but a number of vintage cars from the

Player after player arrived driving a restored Impala, Caprice
or Cutlass Supreme, most of them repainted and retooled with fancy
sound systems and oversized wheels.

Maybe after finally proving they could live up to the Steelers
teams of the 1970s by winning a Super Bowl, they decided to drive
the cars those Steelers may have driven back then.

As for the lack of rings, Ward said the explanation was simple.

"Last year was last year," he said. "We're not going to talk
about what happened last year. Every year's different, and this is
2006. We're not looking at the past. It's over."

The Steelers made one roster move by releasing former Pitt
quarterback Rod Rutherford, who spent time on their practice squad
last season. They also added NFL Europe wide receiver Marvin Allen,
who will spend the season on their practice squad and cannot be