PITTSBURGH — Before fading into the quiet summer, Ben Roethlisberger entertained hundreds of football campers for about six hours Sunday, throwing go balls to young teens and helping feed 5,000 families through a Kraft Hunger initiative.
Before he left the camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback addressed the new, less dramatic reality with his team.
“It’s been a little crazy the last few years, maybe moreso than usual that we’re used to dealing with,” said Roethlisberger in a media session from his camp. “To kind of get back to quote unquote normalcy is kind of nice.”
Offseason workouts were noticeably calmer without the storylines surrounding Le’Veon Bell’s contract status and Antonio Brown‘s unhappiness in Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders in March after he disparaged the organization publicly, failed to show up for work in Week 17 and criticized Roethlisberger’s leadership. Bell signed with the New York Jets in free agency after a year-long holdout on the franchise tag.
For months, players were tasked with answering questions about both players, and losing three December games by three points apiece didn’t help matters.
The Steelers have placed the onus on Roethlisberger, who in April signed a new three-year deal worth $85 million, to keep the offense humming without them.
In recent weeks, Roethlisberger said he erred in criticizing Brown’s route-running on his radio show after Week 12 and vowed to refocus his leadership after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Roethlisberger emerged from minicamp pleased with his Arsenal, which includes two Pro Bowlers — wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner — as well as tight end Vance McDonald and free-agent acquisition Donte Moncrief.
“I’m excited, I really am excited in what we have,” Roethlisberger said. “We put a lot of work in, that’s what it’s going to take, it’s going to take a team effort. We’re all going to give everything we have and see where it goes. We can’t predict the future, but we can predict we’re going to give everything we have.”
Roethlisberger plans to set a tone for his new team, but not just yet. Training camp reporting day is July 25.
“We’ll approach it a lot like we have any other season — we’ll get ready to go when it’s time in July,” Roethlisberger said. “Right now it’s not time, it’s time for us to enjoy some down time. When it’s time for this season, we’ll all be ready to go.”