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Big Ben not around for offseason workouts

The Steelers started offseason workouts Monday at their South Side practice facility. Most conspicuous by his absence was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been accused of sexual assault in Milledgeville, Ga. Roethlisberger has kept a low profile since getting accused of sexual assault for the second time within the past nine months.

The workouts are not mandatory, though the Steelers appeared to get a lot of players for the first one yesterday. Among those who worked out yesterday at the Steelers' practice facility was defensive end Aaron Smith, who missed the final 11 games last season after sustaining a torn rotator cuff in October.

» While the Steelers will take a break from free agency and focus on the draft, that doesn't mean they have ruled out re-signing any of their own players, director of football operations Kevin Colbert said Monday. Among the Steelers who are unrestricted free agents are running back Willie Parker, cornerback Deshea Townsend and quarterback Charlie Batch.

"We'll never close the door on any of our guys," Colbert said.

» The Steelers met with Pitt tight ends Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham yesterday. The two don't count against the 30 official visits the Steelers are allowed to host prior to the NFL Draft since Pitt is a local school. Colbert said the Steelers won't start bringing in out-of-town draft prospects until after the NFL owners meetings, which run from March 21-24 in Orlando, Fla.

» Larry Foote on returning to the Steelers less than a year after he requested his release from the team and was granted it: "It's something I didn't think was going to happen. I'm still in shock. In my heart, I'm a Steeler, and when I left last year they told me I'd always be one. I just didn't think I was going to be back here."

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