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At 30, Roethlisberger is in his prime

| Monday, Sept. 3, 2012, 5:56 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger laughs as he sits on the bench during a preseason football game against the Panthers on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. 
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger laughs as he sits on the bench during a preseason football game against the Panthers on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rears back to throw during practice at St. Vincent College during practice Aug. 1, 2012.
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rears back to throw during practice at St. Vincent College during practice Aug. 1, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger watches the second team offense during practice at St. Vincent College July 26, 2012.
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger watches the second team offense during practice at St. Vincent College July 26, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Ben Roethlisberger looks to be in the prime of his career, throwing the ball with as much zip and accuracy as he ever has during his nine-season career, according to Steelers wide receivers. Mike Wallace didn't need much time to notice.

“I haven't been with Ben in a while, and his arm is stronger than when we left last year,” said Wallace, who practiced Monday for the first time since ending his offseason holdout. “He was throwing it pretty far.”

Roethlisberger passed for 4,077 yards last season — second in his career to his 4,328 yards in 2009 — and he might have the best and deepest cast of receivers he has had yet in Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. While he didn't predict one Monday, he expects a big season.

“I hope so. I don't think by any stretch of the imagination I'm on the down slope and the end of my career,” Roethlisberger said. “ I hope not, geez. The game keeps slowing down, and you keep figuring things out. I'm just blessed to have a great group of young guys around me that can make plays, so I don't have to do as much as I used to.”

Roethlisberger is aware he is at the age — 30 — when many quarterbacks peak.

“I set the bar pretty high on myself. No one can hold my level of expectation higher than I do,” he said. “Hopefully, I'll just keep trying to get better, and hopefully, I get there. And if I don't, I'm sorry.”

Roethlisberger, a three-time Super Bowl participant and two-time winner, isn't often the lesser- known quarterback in any game, but he will be when Peyton Manning returns Sunday in Denver after missing the 2011 season to injury.

Roethlisberger appears to like that he won't be the most-scrutinized quarterback for a change.

“We knew the NFL was going to do that,” Roethlisberger said of giving Manning a prime-time showcase in his first game since the 2010 season. “ It was a no-brainer they were going to put him on Sunday night, Monday night, one of the other two, let him play at home.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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