After nearly one week of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the early reviews are coming in and one of the clear stars of camp has been Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has been very sharp in team drills, moving swiftly throughout the pocket and connecting on a majority of his passes. Much of this can be credited to his physical conditioning as he is possibly in the best shape of his career.
Given his suspension, this will leave a lot of the members of the Steelers’ organization and fans alike wondering what could have been if Roethlisberger was able to start from week one.
Good news may be on the way though.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is coming to Latrobe on Thursday and will address the press and meet with Roethlisberger. So far, he has been impressed with Roethlisberger’s actions.
“He is doing what he’s been asked to do—and frankly more.”
Goodell continued, saying that Roethlisberger “understands the seriousness of this and the fact that he has to change the way he’s doing things. I’m encouraged by that.”
Through his comments, it is becoming apparent that Goodell will indeed reduce Roethlisberger’s suspension from six games to four games, which has been expected since the punishment was initially implemented.
Since Roethlisberger has gone “above and beyond” what Goodell has asked, people are now asking if the suspension will be reduced beyond four games?
According to one camp source, the an announcement of the reduction of Roethlisberger's suspension could come as early as next week and Goodell may actually reduce it to two games.
UPDATE: When Goodell was asked today if Roethlisberger's suspension could be reduced to fewer than four games, he stated, "I'll make that decision later this month, but that's the way it was designed. We'll evaluate all of that at the end of the month."
Overall, Goodell was pleased with Roethlisberger's progress.
"Ben is doing great," Goodell said. "I had a chance to chat with him briefly and hopefully we'll talk again later today. I've been encouraged by what I have seen. He's understanding the seriousness of teh issue. I think that's a very positive development."
In other camp news, Dennis Dixon is picking up his play and may be given an opportunity to have special packages in the Steelers offense.
According to ESPN Radio’s Ken Laird, “Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians hints that Dixon might be used as a change of pace QB this year.”
If Dixon is used as a change of pace quarterback one thing is for certain, it will not be in the wildcat formation, something that Arians is not a fan of. Instead, Dixon told Laird: “I can pass/run depending on the situation. We’re still working on things, haven’t defined it yet.”
Wouldn’t that have been nice last year against Baltimore?
Beyond the quarterbacks, the offensive line is coming together nicely according to Arians.
“I’m really pleased. Trai (Essex) has done a fantastic job working with Flozell (Adams) and Flo’s jumped in and given us a great effort…I feel real fine with the right side of the line.”
Has Roethlisberger done enough to have his suspension reduced to two games?
The Steelers will need the line to fall into place if they are to run the ball more effectively in short yardage and fourth quarter situations.
But do not expect much more running than that as Arians still plans on throwing the ball. When asked if the Steelers could have a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard receivers, Arians felt that it was a definitely possibility.
“We want to have another 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000 yard receivers, I don’t care who they are. We should have had three last year.”
The Steelers quarterbacks will have plenty of options as long as rookie receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown continue to develop.
Sanders has been running outstanding routes all camp and has finally made an impact during team drills as the week progressed.
Brown has shown improvement each day and made several catches over the last few practices.
Others who have not had such a successful week have been rookies Jonathan Dwyer and Jason Worilds.
Dwyer, a sixth round running back, was considered a sleeper by many and was expected to contribute this season, but has been sidelined by injuries.
Worilds had flashed some ability, but a recent injury setback has kept him from practicing over the past few days.
This has put him behind fellow rookie outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, who has shown good pass rushing skills, but has to improve on his pass coverage.
Defensive linemen Ziggy Hood and Ra’Shon “Sunny” Harris have both had very good camps so far. Hood, in fact, is one of the best looking players on the Steelers roster right now and should be poised for a breakout year.
As the week comes to a close, the Steelers will hold a night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium on Friday evening. Traditionally, they run their fan favorite goal line drill at this practice, though this was not the case last season.
Given the team’s emphasis on improving the run, it should be expected that they run this drill this year. Keep an eye on Rashard Mendenhall, but maybe more importantly Isaac Redman.
Redman established himself as a good goal line presence last season, but it was not enough to get him on the team. He looks much more comfortable this season and continued success at the goal line will help him earn a roster spot.
I plan on provided live Twitter updates from practice Friday and will have a full weekend report on Monday.
Follow me on Twitter for updates: http://twitter.com/ChrisG_FC