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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger rejoined the club this week for the next-to-last round of OTAs, and the noticeably slimmer passer took snaps with the first-team offense. Another noteworthy development: third-year QB Dennis Dixon, who played behind Byron Leftwich during the previous two sets of OTAs, worked ahead of Leftwich this week.
"When you're talking about working with four quarterbacks, reps are going to be scarce at some instances," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "For the purpose of this week, if there's a reduction it is going to be at the expense of Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch."
Tomlin noted the importance of getting the 25-year-old Dixon some work in OTAs because of his youth. And Roethlisberger needed practice repetitions because he had been away from the team after being suspended in April for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. At present, Roethlisberger faces a six-game suspension that can be reduced to four games if commissioner Roger Goodell is satisfied with Roethlisberger's compliance with conditions set by the league. Roethlisberger was cleared to rejoin the team last week on the advice of the NFL's medical experts.
On Thursday, Roethlisberger said he was thankful for a "second chance" both in football and life and said he has "put a lot of thought into my life, the decisions I've made in the past."
Tomlin wouldn't share his plans for splitting practice reps in training camp, when the Steelers again will be facing the four-QB quandary. But Roethlisberger, the starter, is certain to get training-camp work. Leftwich, judging from the fact he worked ahead of Dixon earlier in OTAs, could have the edge to be the first-team quarterback in Roethlisberger's absence; in that instance, he would have to get a good deal of training-camp reps. Dixon, who moves up at least one spot in the pecking order when Roethlisberger is out, also will get summer work. It appears Batch, a longtime backup for Pittsburgh, is most likely to get the least work of the group; he's likely to be the third QB when Roethlisberger is out and the fourth QB (if the Steelers carry that many passers) when Roethlisberger returns.
One benefit for the Steelers as training camp approaches: all of the quarterbacks have experience in Bruce Arians' offense. Also, if the Steelers need extra summer study time for their QBs, they can have it: According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, veteran quarterbacks (as well as any injured veteran players) are exempt from a rule that prohibits a team from requiring its veteran players to report no earlier than 15 days before its first preseason game (in the Steelers' case, Aug. 14) or July 15 — "whichever is later," per the CBA.
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