Ward: Roethlisberger has talent, potential
Hines Ward said the Steelers made the perfect choice in the draft.
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) -- Jerome Bettis thinks it's too early to tell, but Hines Ward won't shy away from saying the Pittsburgh Steelers made the perfect choice when they selected quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first round of the draft.
"He's got it," said Ward. "He looks great. I'm excited."
Roethlisberger is already taking snaps with the first team, and he's played well in recent practices.
On Monday, he led the second team during the practice-ending one-minute drill. Roethlisberger ran 20 yards on a scramble and completed a pass while rolling to his left. The drive ended with a short field goal.
"What surprised everybody is his athletic ability," quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple said of the 6-foot-5, 241-pounder. "He's getting better every day."
Roethlisberger wasn't so comfortable on his first day out. After missing four practices while hammering out a contract agreement, he stepped into the huddle, looked around at the faces he recognized from TV and barely spit out the play.
"He was low-key," said Ward. "I said, 'Man, get in here. This is your huddle.' I understand that being a rookie, the first-round pick, you come in and all the veteran guys are looking at you, but he was barely loud enough for anyone to hear the play clearly. I pulled him to the side and said, 'Look, you're our quarterback. When you step in the huddle, our eyes are on you. You've got to have that confidence.' "
He's had his ups and downs, of course. One play after his bootleg pass, Roethlisberger fumbled the snap. But he had enough poise to pick it up and dump it off to a running back for a short gain.
"He's getting more and more comfortable with all the guys," Ward said. "Now it's just a matter of him putting it all together. The best thing for him is getting those reps with the first team. You get the feel for routes, how the line's setting up the pocket."
Roethlisberger isn't expected to take the starting job from Tommy Maddox this year, but he's playing well enough to force his way onto the second team. Charlie Batch and Brian St. Pierre are listed ahead of the rookie on the depth chart, but the coaches are giving Roethlisberger as many first-team reps as possible.
"The potential, he has it. Everything," Ward said. "And he's out here working after practice, trying to get better each day. When you have a guy like that, you have a guy with the potential to be a great quarterback."
Does he have championship potential?
"You've gotta believe he does. He's shown it at the level he's played on," Bettis said. "Now, it's hard to always predict how a guy's future is going to be, especially in this league. You see some of the greatest college football players come out and not have success, so it's really hard to say, especially with the quarterback."