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QB Roethlisberger embracing teaching role with Steelers' offense

| Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 7:54 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks with running back Le'Veon Bell during organized team activities Tuesday, June 16, 2015, on Pittsburgh's South Side.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks with running back Le'Veon Bell during organized team activities Tuesday, June 16, 2015, on Pittsburgh's South Side.

It wasn't long after former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Denver last year that he said Peyton Manning was much more of a leader than Ben Roethlisberger.

“In terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort,” Sanders said.

Sanders surely wasn't talking about this Roethlisberger.

This Roethlisberger gathers a group of his teammates to work out in Georgia during the spring.

This Roethlisberger grabs quarterback coach Randy Fichtner before practice because he wants work on a couple of throws that he doesn't quite feel comfortable with yet.

This Roethlisberger not only attends every voluntary organized team activity, he routinely stays after practice with his receivers to get in extra throws.

And more noticeably now than in his 11 previous seasons, Roethlisberger is more than just a quarterback during practice — he's being a coach, as well.

“It's fun because I can tell the guys what I want on the field and they are going to listen because we all want to be the best we can be and help each other win,” Roethlisberger said. “I am just happy to have the coach's blessing to be able to do that and not stepping on anybody's toes.”

It's a natural progression for Roethlisberger to step into a more hands-on approach with the offense.

Roethlisberger, who signed a five-year deal in March that can be worth as much as $108 million, has been in the league for 12 years, is the second-oldest player on the roster behind James Harrison and has been in the Todd Haley system going on four years. At 33 years old, he is the eighth-oldest quarterback in the league.

“Man, that comes with being him,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It's evolved over the nine years I have been with him and it should. It is a natural maturation process. Not only in terms of what he is doing but understanding the scheme and approach we are taking offensively.”

Roethlisberger never seems to pass up a teaching point when it arises, especially during the past five weeks of spring practices.

“He is really coaching them up,” backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said. “The most important thing about the quarterback position is having guys do things the way you want them done. I see him doing that more and more. Guys listen when he talks and that's huge.”

Whether it's during individual drills and a veteran tight end isn't releasing from the line of scrimmage properly or if an undrafted rookie receiver doesn't have the correct depth in his route, before hearing about if from Haley, they hear it from Roethlisberger.

“If you are supposed to be 14 yards, we need you at 14 yards,” receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “He even comes into the wide receiver room and tells us what he wants and he does a good job of telling us what he needs. If things are a little shaky he doesn't mind coming over to us and talking to us and let us know what's going on.”

Case in point was during the first day of minicamp Tuesday, when Roethlisberger was directing the 2-minute offense. Roethlisberger led the team down to the 2-yard line before getting intercepted at the goal line by William Gay.

What looked like an errant throw by Roethlisberger was a misread of a route by Markus Wheaton, who is moving into the slot this year with the emergence of Martavis Bryant.

Roethlisberger not only pulled Wheaton to the side, he brought him to the source and had Gay explain to him what he saw and what he did to force Wheaton into the wrong route.

“It was a really good teaching tape for Markus because he wasn't sure what to do with where Will was,” Roethlisberger said. “He kind of broke his route early and he shouldn't have.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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