On A Mission

Ben Roethlisberger (LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

Ben Roethlisberger appears to have gained a sense of urgency this spring as the leader of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His position coach sees the growth.

Mike Tomlin dismissed the notion that Ben Roethlisberger is "on a mission" with his leadership this spring by saying, "Man, we're all on a mission. There's only one confetti game, one trophy game."

Heath Miller agreed.

"I guess I could have the same answer; maybe not as colorful," said Miller. "I don't notice anything different. I think it's kind of the same sense of urgency this time every year."

But Roethlisberger just keeps coaching his part of the Steelers' offense with encouragement, corrections and at times even anger.

In spite of what the coach and the reserved and wholly believable tight end say, Roethlisberger is showing more usable leadership at age 32 than at any point in his 11 years in the NFL.

His position coach says so. And so does the quarterback himself.

"Maybe just because I see the potential," Roethlisberger explained. "I would like to build off last year. We ended the season on a real high note offensively. I would like to just continue to grow off that and get better."

Roethlisberger and the Steelers went 6-2 in the second half last season and Roethlisberger was sacked only 11 times.

Some might say he bought into the offense. But his work this spring speaks to more than that.

"Maybe the intensity changed a little bit," said quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner. "Obviously he's here a lot more. He's got two kids now, a wife. You have your own things going on and you can't be all different places. I think he put an emphasis on 'Maybe I can't do all the charity works,' or 'I can't travel the country' or 'I can't do all of those things.' I think it's just an intensity. It's an intensity by him to say 'I'm going to be here.'"

Fichtner added that "Ben does a lot on his own, too," in terms of watching film via the technological upgrades, and that "he's done a nice job taking care of his body this spring. He looks as healthy as I've seen in the last several years.

"It's funny that you notice it," Fichtner added. "I told my wife the other day, 'He looks better. Feels better. Is moving better than I remember for maybe two or three years.'"

The first minicamp practice Tuesday was just another day on this June's gridiron for Roethlisberger. Early in individual drills he worked on the finer points of the "now" routes with his receivers, alternately praising them, correcting them, and when needed hollering at them. During the first special-teams session he ran sprints on the adjacent field and during the second he covered kickoffs with the look team.

Roethlisberger is no doubt this team's leader. Has the perceived urgency been heightened by age?

"I don't know if it's so much the urgency because quote-unquote I'm getting towards the end or whatever it is, because I physically feel great," Roethlisberger said. "Maybe that's what it is. Maybe I feel so good that I just want to really kind of play great and have this offense playing great. It might just be excitement."

Or a natural evolution.

"Every year you grow as a leader," he said. "Everyone that comes into the NFL was probably a star on their team, and you're not a star here. You read as a rookie you should be seen, not heard. I want to see these guys not make the same mistake twice. I'll give them some leeway for a dropped pass here and there, but when they make the same mistake twice you need to get on them.

"Now that I'm the old guy, you feel a little more at ease doing that."

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