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Roethlisberger says he's ready for preseason

LATROBE, Pa. -- Ben Roethlisberger pronounced himself fit
for the Steelers' first preseason game and said Thursday that coach
Bill Cowher would have to "hold me back" from playing nine days
from now in Arizona.

It was a departure from Roethlisberger's comment following
Sunday's camp-opening practice that his playing is "always Coach's
call."

The turning point for Roethlisberger was Wednesday night's
practice at a high-school stadium in downtown Latrobe. In front of
a record crowd at Memorial Stadium, he looked like the
Roethlisberger of old.

"Yeah, he's the same quarterback," said offensive coordinator
Ken Whisenhunt after the impressive showing.

"To be in comeback form like he was last night, so soon after
the accident, speaks volumes about who he is," receiver Hines Ward
said. "He didn't lose a beat. He looked good."

Roethlisberger improved with his arm strength, and flashed the
ability to throw on the run and across his body that marked his
first two seasons in the league. Roethlisberger's most impressive
pass came off a scramble when he zipped the ball to Ward on the
sideline. He also feathered a deep pass between linebacker
Larry Foote and Troy Polamalu into the arms of Quincy Morgan.

"Everything feels pretty good," Roethlisberger said. "My arm
feels good. I feel like it's coming along well. It's better than it
has been in previous camps."

Teammates in the spring had hoped that another year of
experience would further the development of a quarterback with a
27-4 record in his two regular seasons in the league, but a June 12
motorcycle accident put those hopes on hold.

The Wednesday night performance eased any fears.

"He made some great throws," Whisenhunt said. "He made some
strong throws down the field so it was exciting."

"The only thing now is if he gets hit. What happens then?"
Ward said. "But Ben's a competitor, a warrior."

Cowher said his decision on the Aug. 12 starting quarterback
won't be made until next week. Whisenhunt said if it was up to him,
Roethlisberger would start.

"Everything is normal again so I would expect him to play,"
Whisenhunt said. "He's the same quarterback. Obviously, not having
worked out in four or five weeks dropped his conditioning back, so
sometimes he gets tired in practice and with his throws he can't
drive with his legs as much, but that's normal. That's not anything
that's out of the ordinary with a quarterback."

Roethlisberger may be even more mobile than he was last season,
when he weighed close to 250 pounds. He's down to 235 and is using
the added quickness to his advantage.

At Thursday's practice, however, he scrambled right and threw
back across his body to the other side of the field, where
linebacker James Harrison intercepted the pass intended for
Willie Parker.

"That's nothing," said tight end Heath Miller. "I know his
arm has taken a little while to get back in shape, and I'm sure
he's still working on it. I think maybe (Wednesday) night was a
good stage for a lot of folks to see him and say, 'Oh, OK, he's the
same guy, he's still number seven, he's still going to do the same
stuff."'