Both QBs taking snaps with starters
Because of Roethlisberger's suspension, the Steelers already know they must get another quarterback ready to play when the season starts. From the way coach Mike Tomlin dealt out snaps during the voluntary practices that concluded Thursday, it seems all but certain that Leftwich will be that quarterback.
While Tomlin isn't ruling out third-year quarterback Dennis Dixon or longtime backup Charlie Batch, he said the way that playing time was distributed this spring is an indication of where the Steelers are going.
When Roethlisberger was around, he took nearly all of the snaps with the starters. When he wasn't, Leftwich did.
"I'm not going to name a No. 1 -- I don't need to," Tomlin said after the Steelers held their only practice all spring at Heinz Field. "I think how we distributed reps is an indication at this juncture."
Because Roethlisberger can't practice during his six-game suspension, Tomlin said it becomes even more important for him to get quality work during training camp. Tomlin isn't ready yet to detail how the snaps will be divided during camp, other than there won't be enough for all four quarterbacks to prepare equally.
"I think he's going to have the mentality like he always has when he reports to training camp," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. "And that's to put himself in position to be the very best he can and be what we need him to be, and prepare himself for the season. He's still going to have any opportunity to do all these things [to get ready to play]."
Tomlin also isn't concerned -- at least not publicly -- about the practices Roethlisberger will miss during a suspension that runs into October. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has the option to shorten it to four games.
"Ben's a pro," Tomlin said. "When the time and the opportunity to play come for him, I'm sure he'll be excited about that."
While the Steelers brought back Leftwich from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following Roethlisberger's suspension, Tomlin said he intentionally tried not to reduce the amount of practice time Dixon got this spring.
"That may change when we get to training camp," Tomlin said.
Tomlin also said that training camp, which starts July 30, won't be that much different from last summer's, when the Steelers were coming off a Super Bowl victory rather than a 9-7 season in which they missed the playoffs.
Many Steelers players will remain in town through next week to take part in what will largely be classroom-type work off the field.
First-roiund draft pick Maurkice Pouncey is more mature football-wise than either running back Rashard Mendenhall or linebacker Lawrence Timmons were as rookies drafted on the first round. Pouncey will get the chance to start this season -- probably at right guard, possibly at center.
"I think he has proven to be mature beyond his years," Tomlin said of Pouncey, who turns 21 next month.
Rookie linebacker Jason Worilds, the second-round pick, is showing no hesitancy at making the switch from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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