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Kovacevic: Of Big Ben, big men, scatbacks

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 12:31 a.m.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey snaps to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during mini camp on the south side June 12, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws during mini camp on the south side June 12, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws during mini camp on the south side June 12, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Mini-thoughts, mini-observations of the Steelers' minicamp that concluded Thursday on the South Side ...

• For all the buzz about Big Ben's pending mini-Roethlisberger and the resultant change in his life, the best change I noticed over the three weeks of OTAs and minicamp was this: He pouted less with each passing day about Todd Haley's playbook.

Roethlisberger conceded Wednesday he initially was troubled by having to switch after eight years in the NFL, and his comment was telling: "That was it early on."

See the past tense?

Here's hoping he keeps it that way.

• Actual visible, audible signs of friction between Roethlisberger and Haley these past three weeks: Zero.

• The playbook won't take center stage until preseason, but the best early way to describe it is that it will be all things to all people. Expect Haley to show opponents a lot of different looks, formations, even personnel sets.

And expect that no one will love this more than Heath Miller. Haley loves to soften up the middle, and few in football do that better than No. 83.

"The more we spread the ball around and get everyone involved, the more difficult, in my mind, we would be to defend," Miller said. "I don't sit around and crave catching 100 balls. I just want to win."

That doesn't need to be mutually exclusive.

• Anyone placing Emmanuel Sanders ahead of Jerricho Cotchery on the wide receiver depth chart should do so in pencil.

• James Harrison opened OTAs declaring himself healthy, then stayed off the field for most of the past three weeks. The new issue was fluid on the knee, which doesn't sound serious. But the old issue, the wonky back, still hasn't been silenced.

You OK with Jason Worilds replacing him?

Me neither.

• Favorite guy to watch - and there wasn't a close second - was fifth-round scatback Chris Rainey. He's barely big enough to ride the Thunderbolt - 5-foot-9 - but blazes out of the Steelers' backfield like no one since Willie Parker.

Haley will find a way to use this weapon.

• Some of those plays could be screens, even mid-range passes. Rainey made a ridiculous one-handed grab Tuesday that looked like it might tear his shoulder from its socket.

Sticky gloves?

"Naw, man," he explained, with a grin. "Soft hands."

• Non-issue of the month: Mike Wallace.

What was he going to do, accept a $2.72 million tender while negotiating a long-term contract that could quadruple that?

If he blows off St. Vincent, that's meaningful.

• Feel free to share any doubts about Isaac Redman as a feature back with Redman himself. It couldn't possibly be anything an undrafted free agent out of Bowie State hasn't heard.

"Bring it on," Redman told me on a shared bench the other day. "I believe in myself. This is my time."

• You do realize that Jonathan Dwyer is Redman's backup, right?

He's 22 and has 25 career carries over two seasons.

Just checking.

• It's crazy that rookie left tackle Mike Adams is listed at 6-foot-7, 323 pounds but still looks like he needs to add bulk. Kid's built like a tight end.

• Nice to see good guy Chris Hoke hanging around even after retirement, and better yet to see him at a svelte 247 pounds. His playing weight, just a few months ago: 305.

Never underestimate a nose tackle's dietary ways.

• One name you've probably never heard but will soon: Terry Carter, undrafted corner out of Louisiana Tech, had three seriously athletic picks Wednesday.

Not like there isn't a need for some of that.

• Don't worry about the lost leadership with James Farrior's retirement. The real leader all along has been Mike Tomlin, and that isn't about to change.

When a hard rain chased the Steelers off the field Tuesday, only 15 minutes remained in that final session, anyway.

No big deal, right?

To Tomlin it was: He ordered everyone to change to indoor shoes, then sent them across the parking lot to the bubble to complete the session.

For 15 minutes.

• Next time you'll see the football club will be at maxicamp. Only 40 days until Latrobe.

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