LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Tight spiral after tight spiral. Repeated deep balls lofted deftly into the waiting hands of a receiver not breaking stride.
Ben Roethlisberger has looked as sharp as ever during practices throughout much of this Pittsburgh Steelers training camp this summer.
The two-time Super Bowl champion appears anything like a quarterback who's being bothered by a shoulder injury — as teammates, coaches and even Big Ben himself can attest to.
"He looks like the same old Ben to me, which is a great quarterback," veteran tight end Heath Miller said. "Nothing new on that front."
Roethlisberger revealed on Wednesday that he sustained a slight tear in his right rotator cuff during a game last November. The revelation caused a mid-afternoon stir at St. Vincent College Wednesday before Roethlisberger later assured, "It's a serious non-issue, because I'm just fine."
He's looked it, too. Besides the fact he hasn't missed a full practice at camp and was a full participant all through Organized Team Activities and minicamp earlier this summer, Roethlisberger's arm has done the talking.
Thursday, most of his better throws during two-minute drill work went to Antonio Brown, including a high deep pattern down the right sideline that went for a 38-yard touchdown.
"He's looking really good," Brown said, "throwing good and just having a good camp overall."
Continuing a trend that developed over the latter stages of last season, Brown has grown into Roethlisberger's go-to receiver. That's obvious during practice, though Pro Bowl receiver Mike Wallace's holdout also contributes to that.
"I'm learning where he wants me to go," Brown said. "And with him, I know that if I get there, the ball will be there for me."
The other starting receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, concurs. He believes Roethlisberger "definitely" is having a strong training camp.
"All quarterbacks usually come into their prime around 30 years old," Sanders said. "And I feel like Ben is starting to come into his prime with his arm strength and understanding and everything."
Roethlisberger, who turned 30 in March, said Wednesday that getting older — combined with the "sore" shoulder — has caused him to stop making repeated unnecessary throws before practice or during more informal situations.
"It's one of those ones where the doctor says 'You know what, let's just avoid throwing too much in walkthroughs and when you don't have to throw, and try not to land on it,'" Roethlisberger said. "It happened in the Baltimore game (last Nov. 6). It just got extended the wrong way. It was never an issue of (pain). I've dealt with a lot of pain, and it wasn't going to take me out."
In the seven games he played after the injury, Roethlisberger had 1,734 passing yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was also bothered by a badly sprained left ankle during much of that stretch, an injury that caused him to miss a win against St. Louis on Christmas Eve.
Despite sitting that game, Roethlisberger finished with 4,077 yards and 21 touchdowns. That was his second-best season in the former and third-most in the latter.
"You didn't see any dropoff in my play throwing the ball (last season)," he said. "And you haven't seen it yet (this summer)."
The Steelers (No. 7 in the AP Pro32) have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley this season, and Roethlisberger said he is warming to picking up on the new playbook after a period of adjustment.
"I'm just really excited about working with Ben," Haley said. "We're off to a real good start. When you have a guy that's a proven winner that knows how to move the football up and down the field and get everybody in place, that's a huge asset."
NOTES: LB LaMarr Woodley did not practice for the second consecutive day Thursday, and he was seen walking around campus with a slight limp. Tomlin characterized it as a routine veteran's day off when he missed Wednesday's practice. Thursday, when asked if Woodley was injured, Tomlin said, "He will be back tomorrow." ... LB Brandon Hicks did not practice due to a lower abdominal injury. RB John Clay (groin) did not return to practice after missing Wednesday's workout, but RB Chris Rainey (heat-related illness) did.
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