After going through the team’s first voluntary conditioning workouts on Monday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signaled for the large turnout of players to gather around him on the field.
While his words couldn’t be heard beyond the tight knit group that formed a circle around him, his actions certainly could. It was a true sign of leadership, Roethlisberger showing that he is not just committed to winning, but to being one of the true veteran leaders on the team.
“I wanted to tell them this is the start of the 2013 season,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s important for us to know if we want to be the best we can be it starts now. I wanted to let them know that I am here to help and support them, and I plan on leading any way I can.”
Roethlisberger doesn’t have to be at the workouts, as they are voluntary and as a veteran he knows what it takes to get ready for when OTAs begin. But for younger players, and even other veterans, seeing him there definitely shines a light on the importance of getting off to a strong start.
“I want the younger guys to know how important this is,” said Roethlisberger. “The older guys, they don’t need to be here. They have been here long enough. Me being here is to encourage the young guys and the ones that haven’t been doing it a long time, to know how important it is by seeing a veteran guy here and do what I can to lead these young guys.
“We have had so much change. We lost a lot of veteran guys. I look around and I think there are only five or six guys on this team that are older than me now. It’s important for me as a leader and a quarterback to be here and show guys I am dedicated to this team and this season and am doing what I can to be the best I can be.”
Roster changes are inevitable every year, but coming off an 8-8 season makes it almost a necessity. Some familiar faces, including Mike Wallace, James Harrison and Keenan Lewis, are gone. And some new faces have arrived, including some that are familiar in tight end Matt Spaeth and cornerback William Gay.
Ben Roethlisberger agrees that change can be good. But he also likes the fact that he will still have some of his receivers in the fold, including Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
“It’s going to be big for these guys,” said Roethlisberger. “That is why it’s nice to have Emmanuel back. He is a veteran guy that knows what is going on here and knows the game of football. It’s going to be fun to see them work with some young guys and see what they can do.”
Roethlisberger is taking advantage of time during the voluntary workouts to get to know new quarterback Bruce Gradkowski better, and is also looking forward to working with receiver Plaxico Burress. The same Burress, who enters his 12th season, signed with the team last year in late November. He was re-signed in March and now has a full offseason to get comfortable in the offense.
“It’s going to be fun to still have him here,” said Ben Roethlisberger. “To have that veteran guy that has been around, I think he is the only guy on offense that is older than me, is not only going to be big for me, but for all of the wide receivers in that room.
“This time is good for everyone. It’s a time to get started. I am excited to get the season started.”