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Aaron Smith: Big Ben won't be distraction

Defensive end Aaron Smith, one of the more respected players on the Steelers, said he doesn't expect Ben Roethlisberger to be treated differently when the embattled quarterback starts working out with the team again.

Roethlisberger, who is under investigation for sexual assault in Milledgeville, Ga., is not expected to attend offseason workouts this week, so his presence doesn't cause any distractions.

Starters were scheduled to report yesterday for the voluntary training sessions that began for the team's other players March 15.

When Roethlisberger returns to the team's South Side practice facility, "I'm sure (the other players) will welcome him," Smith said. "He's just one of the guys. We all go through issues and trials, and this is just one he's going to have to face."

Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault twice since last July. A civil suit filed against him in Nevada last July is pending.

Roethlisberger apologized to his teammates on the first night of training camp last July for any distractions caused by accusations in the civil suit, which he vehemently denied.

Smith said he doesn't need to hear a similar apology from Roethlisberger this time.

"Honestly, it doesn't really matter to me," said Smith, who added that he "enjoys Ben" and has always gotten along with Roethlisberger. "That's his business, and my business is playing football, so when we come here we focus on games and that's all we're here for."

Roethlisberger could get suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

The two are supposed to meet, though a date has not yet been set.

When asked about the possibility of Roethlisberger getting punished by the league, Smith said, "I don't think we've even thought of that. I think if it arises we'll deal with it, but I don't even think it's in our minds."

Shoulder not limiting Smith

Smith has made enough of a recovery from a serious shoulder injury that he is not restricted as he prepares for a return to the field and the Steelers' starting lineup.

Smith, who turns 34 next month, tore his right rotator cuff in October. The injury cost the Steelers one of their most indispensable players for the final 11 games.

"It's good," Smith said of his shoulder. "The strength's coming back. I pretty much got the go-ahead to do anything I want."

Steelers welcome PSU LB

The Steelers hosted four NFL draft prospects yesterday, including Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman.

Also meeting with the team yesterday were Purdue defensive lineman Michael Neal, Wake Forest offensive tackle Chris DeGeare and Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey.

Yesterday marked the first day the Steelers had out-of-area prospects in for a visit. Teams are allowed to bring in 30 players prior to the draft.

The 6-foot, 242-pound Bowman is expected to be a high-round pick in the draft, which will be held April 22-24.

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