Roethlisberger Taking Hands-On Approach with WR Group

Steelers QB with strong praise for new WR Moncrief

Josh Rowntree
June 11, 2019 - 1:44 pm

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - Ben Roethlisberger is embracing more of a firsthand teaching style with his young group of wide receivers. 

With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell gone, that may just be a necessity for the Steelers. 

Roethlisberger vocal leadership and direction were apparent through the team’s OTA sessions the previous three weeks and continued Tuesday when Pittsburgh began minicamp at its practice facility on the South Side. 

“I try,” Roethlisberger said. “I think I know the offense as well as anyone here. Some of these young guys coming in maybe don’t understand everything here. So I try to tell them what I expect. 

“Coaches can coach a guy to do what the paper says on a route and do certain things. But, ultimately, it comes down to what does the quarterback want and expect. So I try to let those guys know so that there are no real secrets. Communication is always important.”

The mindset is a particularly interesting one following an offseason in which Roethlisberger’s integrity, leadership and value to the Steelers was questioned from a variety of former teammates and media figures. 

Whether he paid any mind to those critics or not, Roethlisberger certainly appears motivated.

“I’ve been here a long time,” he said. “We’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers. We’re going to go out and try to win every football game. It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the ‘big one.’ If everyone puts forth the effort we all think we can and, with all the talent in this room, we feel pretty confident that we can be pretty good.”

And there is talent. Pittsburgh’s top receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, will carry a much larger role with Brown now in Oakland. That means other receivers will have to step up. So who has, to this point?

“It’d be hard to pick one, but I’d probably go with Donte Moncrief, because it’s new (for him),” Roethlisberger said. “I know what to expect with some other guys, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect when he came in. Obviously, we played against him and saw him go against us in game situations. I didn’t know him as a person. Now I’m just getting to see his work ethic, the type of person he is, his desire to be great, his knowledge of the offense already. 

“We’ll do no huddle stuff and I’ll give him a signal and ask him ‘you good’ and he’s like ‘yeah.’ He’s in with (Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake) every single morning. You see the desire and the want to be great. So I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him and to work with him so far.”

Moncrief was given a two-year deal by Pittsburgh in March. Being able to get familiar with Roethlisberger, according to the seventieth-year quarterback, could pay off in a major way. 

“It really helps,” Roethlisberger said. “This is an opportunity to not just be thrown into it in training camp. We had to do it with Vance (McDonald) one year, we had to do that with (Ryan Switzer). This is an awesome opportunity that he’s here and we get to work together.”

Beyond Moncreif and Smith-Schuster, the Steelers will need the likes of James Washington, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer and rookie Diontae Spencer to elevate their games in order to at least try to match Brown’s production of previous seasons. 

“It’ll be fun, Roethlisberger said. “There’s some holes that have been lost, it’s obvious. But we’ve got a lot of guys who desire to fill those voids. It’s not going to be one person. It’s going to be a lot of different people.

Smith-Schuster, however, seems to be the key to the room. He has been heralded by his fellow wider receivers on his ability to lead the group through the offseason. 

“We’ve got a lot of great leaders on this team,” Roethlisberger said. “A lot of them in the offensive line, offense, defense. JuJu’s still a real young guy, but he’s a guy that has to expand on that leadership thing in this offense and in his room especially. 

“The neat thing about it is that whole room has kind of gelled. They seem to be really close, they have a lot fo fun together. We just want to see JuJu continue to grow in the way he’s going, the path that he’s on, because it’s been a lot of fun to be around him, to be his teammate and to watch his growth every year.”

Roethlisberger’s presence at OTAs was noticeable, particularly following last year, when he was in attendance for the first day, but then skipped the rest of the optional workouts. With the offense’s leader in the building and on the field, cohesion has likely started well in advance of Latrobe. 

“It’s an awesome challenge for all of us to get to know each other, to learn, to do everything we can to be the best,’ he said. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is win a championship. In order to do that we’re all going to have to be at our best.”

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