Steelers camp opens; fans cheer Roethlisberger

My friend Jennell left a voicemail on my phone a couple days ago announcing that it was “that glorious time of year again.” For her, the Vikings’ camp opened. What this actually means Jennell is that you’re about three to four weeks from seeing Brett Favre out there and the rest of us have to fight through every edition of SportsCenter while he pines for attention and makes sure everyone wants him. (Of course you do, too. Why wouldn’t you? Oh, and I’ll call you back you very soon — just got to Seattle.)

The big left guard out of Utah is really hitting his professional stride.

For me, though, Steelers camp opened and I’m not exactly sure how to feel. The offensive line has me a little concerned, though Chris Kemoeatu is the most underrated guard in the NFL and, if he stays healthy, will make a serious impact after missing four games last season. I’m also excited to see Maurkice Pouncey. (Lord, what a name.)

The AFC North is loaded this year. Cincinnati will always be a threat with Carson Palmer healthy and Marvin Lewis putting together the defense. But the Baltimore Ravens — though it pains me to say it — are probably the preseason AFC favorite for the Super Bowl. The offense is (finally) loaded. Though the defense is aging and banged up early, it is going to be great again. Especially if it can get Ed Reed back on the field.

The Steelers defense, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically rotten in the fourth quarter and on third downs last season. Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu will be back. HUGE. But shutdown corners have been in short supply in Pittsburgh. Ike Taylor is serviceable, but not great — and “great” is going to be needed against the likes of division receivers Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, Donte Stallworth, Derrick Mason, Mohamed Massquoi and Bobby Engram.

But all concerns aside, is there none greater that that of the unique and disappointing quarterback situation in Pittsburgh?

According to ESPN’s John Clayton, serial dick and two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ran onto the practice field amid fans’ cheers.That’s good to hear. Really, it is.

In USA Today. Photo by Keith Srakocic, AP

While I’m not ready to cheer for Big Ben quite yet, this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is putting me back on that track.

There isn’t a quarterback who escapes sure sacks the way Roethlisberger does. There isn’t a quarterback who subjects himself to a worse beating on the field — and continues to play — the way Roethlisberger does. There aren’t many quarterbacks who inspire comebacks and confidence the way Roethlisberger does.

And I love that.

But the arrogant, simple-minded, drunk neanderthal that Roethlisberger can be is still just that. I’m glad he is staying up at his palatial mansion and that his friends are going there to party instead of on college campuses. I’m glad he wants to show Pittsburgh what kind of guy he claims to be. I’m glad he is talking about some day getting married, raising a family, and settling in Pittsburgh for good.

But I also want to hear it from charity directors, not him. I want to hear it from servers in restaurants, kids that got his autograph and a chat, people that weren’t fans, women for whom he held the door coming out of a theater. That’s what I want to hear.

And, being a fan, I want to hear more cheers.

Lots more cheers.

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