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Steelers' veteran leaders Roethlisberger, Ward take charge

Ben Roethlisberger called Hines Ward on Tuesday to see how the concussed wide receiver was doing.

The Steelers' offense, which ranks 24th in the NFL and has struggled inside the red zone, may start feeling better as a result of their conversation.

"He actually brought up, 'Listen, lead us, show us how to do this,'" Roethlisberger said. "I said, 'Well, listen, it's us. Let's do this together. I need you as much as you need me, and we all need this together.' It was a good talk between us."

The joint decision to reassert themselves as the leaders of the offense — the two served as offensive co-captains in 2008-09 — comes at a critical juncture for the Steelers.

They are coming off the worst home loss of the Mike Tomlin era.

Another loss Sunday to the visiting Oakland Raiders might heighten anxieties because the Steelers are just a season removed from dropping five games in a row, including one to Oakland, after a 6-2 start.

"It's time to have a sense of urgency," said Ward, who practiced yesterday and said he has experienced no lingering effects from the concussion sustained last Sunday against the New England Patriots. "I told (Roethlisberger), 'Captain or not captain, you're a leader of this team.' We've all got to come together as a group and get this thing back going so what happened last year doesn't happen again."

Tomlin reinforced the Steelers' need to have a sense of urgency by having them practice in full pads.

The Steelers rarely do that on Wednesdays during the season, and Tomlin sent a text message to veteran free safety Ryan Clark prior to yesterday about the change in routine.

"I told him I already knew," Clark said. "It's not a punishment. We understand what's going on. You can't have a game where you feel like you don't win physically, defensively and offensively, and not put the pads on and address it.

"Nobody in here's upset. Nobody in here feels it's unwarranted. We know we need this work."

Roethlisberger said he plans on becoming more of a vocal leader. He said in the past his style was to pull individual players aside to talk to them. That, he strongly hinted, will change after his conversation with Ward.

"We both kind of said, 'It's time for us as veteran guys, leaders that have been around here for a while and played postseason ball to lead these guys that have only done it once or twice or never. We have to show them how to do this,'" Roethlisberger said. "I think that's the re-focus that he and I have, that we can hopefully show other people by it."

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