The start of Steelers Training Camp 2010 will be remembered more for what didn’t happen than for what did happen.
What didn’t happen, despite the expectations of many fans, sportswriters, and sports talk show hosts, was booing for Ben Roethlisberger. Perhaps this should have been expected, since the people who make their way to St. Vincent College for Steelers Training Camp tend to be very loyal, die-hard fans. They are probably the group that is least likely to boo a member of the Steelers, regardless of what that player may have done.
For the most part, the greeting that Big Ben received was very courteous. He didn’t receive the loud, ground-shaking cheers that Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward received, but they didn’t boo him either. In fact, a few female fans could even be heard yelling “We love you, Ben!”
Despite not receiving a hostile reaction from the fans, Roethlisberger’s jersey #7 was noticeably scarce. There were plenty of #7 jerseys to be found in the crowd. But many were worn by small children. Anyone who has been to Steelers Training Camp in the past would have noticed the drastic reduction in the number of #7 jerseys in the stands. Moreover, I’d be willing to bet that the Steelers organization is noticing a drastic decline in sales of Ben’s #7 jersey.
I’m sure that Roethlisberger was just as uncertain as I was of how he would be greeted. Once he got out on the field, Ben seemed very loose and relaxed. He took the first snaps in each of the drills, before turning the ball over to Byron Leftwich.
Roethlisberger, Leftwich, and Dennis Dixon all got a significant amount of work on Saturday. However, there didn’t seem to be many snaps left over for Charlie Batch. There just isn’t enough time to prepare four quarterbacks for the season, and Batch is apparently the odd man out.
Other than the aforementioned reaction to Big Ben, and the division of labor among the quarterbacks, the first day of Training Camp was very uneventful.
Here are a few random observations from the first day of practice:
- As in years past, Training Camp didn’t feel like it had officially begun until Chris Hoke performed his dance in the middle of the field. This has become a tradition at Training Camp, and was met with thunderous applause by the fans and the other players.
- LaMarr Woodley’s ascension as a Pro Bowler was evident. I noticed far more #56 jerseys in the crowd than I’ve ever seen before. In fact, there seemed to be more #56 jerseys than #92 (James Harrison) jerseys.
- #86 and #43 are the most popular jersey numbers by far. Those two number must have accounted for more of the jerseys worn by fans at St. Vincent College than all other numbers combined.
- While Stefan Logan took most of the reps receiving punts, Antonio Brown and Crezdon Butler also fielded a few punts.
- Chris Kemoeatu drew cheers from the crowd when he jumped in front of Mike Wallace and intercepted a pass. Of course, Kemoeatu wasn’t supposed to be participating in the drill, so Wallace didn’t expect him to jump in front of him.
- The crowd cheered loudly when Rashard Mendenhall got around the defense and broke a long run to the outside.
- Emmanuel Sanders’ first catch of the day was a long bomb from Byron Leftwich.
- WR Brandon London is a big target. At 6’4″, he towers over the other Steelers receivers.
- Mike Wallace burned William Gay for a long reception. Both aspects of that play seemed strangely familiar.
- Rashard Mendenhall got knocked on his butt by a hard hit after catching a short pass over the middle.
- Rookie LB Stevenson Sylvester intercepted a pass near the end of practice.
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