Ben Roethlisberger blurted the worst-kept secret around the Steelers into the open yesterday: He and coach Bill Cowher did not quite see eye to eye.
"Our relationship wasn't great because he was here before I got here and I was just a young kid," Roethlisberger said yesterday.
The most glaring instance of the strain on that relationship came in 2005 when Cowher became aware that his young quarterback was riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Cowher talked to him and advised him to be responsible and wear one. That same day, Roethlisberger told the media he would continue to ride without a helmet.
Other instances occurred when the coach sharply disagreed publicly with Roethlisberger that he had played the AFC championship game in his rookie season with broken toes. There were other disagreements over perceived injuries that caused frustration for Cowher.
Roethlisberger hopes to get off to a better start with new coach Mike Tomlin.
"Coach Tomlin and I are rookies together in a sense, so I think we will have a better relationship,'' Roethlisberger said.
Taylor back with first team
Cornerback Ike Taylor regained his spot on the first-team defense, at least for yesterday. He ended last season having lost his job and virtually in the coach's doghouse. He and veteran Deshea Townsend worked with the first unit.
"Right now, I am just happy to be back out there," Taylor said. "The offseason was fast. The season is approaching, We have a new head coach, new coaching staff. I am glad to be back playing football."
Not a center yet
Starting right guard Kendall Simmons does not see himself competing at center with newcomer Sean Mahan and seven-year veteran backup Chukky Okobi, no matter what his coaches said.
Simmons was at right guard and Okobi at center when the first unit took the field yesterday. Simmons will practice some at center, but does not expect it to be full time. Marvin Philip also made the roster last season as a rookie center.
"We have Chukky, Sean and Marvin here," Simmons said. "I want to be good enough at it and continue to get reps so if something happens I can do it."
Gardocki still here, but ...
Punter Chris Gardocki, still on the roster despite the team's attempts to replace him, attended minicamp. Gardocki, 37, has a $1 million salary due this year. The Steelers signed restricted free agent Andy Lee, but the 49ers kept their punter by matching the contract. Punter Mike Barr is on the preseason roster for the fourth consecutive year, and the Steelers have taken closer looks at a couple of college punting prospects.
Tomlin ended a long-standing Steelers tradition of open policy when he barred newspaper photographers from most of practice.
He will permit the still photographers to work the early part of practice when players basically run and stretch, but not when the team moves to group drills and practice.
Tomlin explained that he's trying to protect players while they compete for jobs.
"Sometimes, a picture's worth a thousand words, and some people are going to be in some compromising positions that maybe they don't want to see themselves in," Tomlin said.
So far so good
Tomlin's first two practices as Steelers coach were run crisply on a warm day, and he said he was happy with them.
"Just the overall atmosphere for what we're looking for, the tempo, the attention to detail. I wanted to hear the guys coach. I wanted to hear the guys talk to one another, teach one another. The overall camaraderie is what I was looking for. We got a lot of that today. It was a great, upbeat tempo, a positive attitude. It was a very positive day from that standpoint."