PITTSBURGH (AP) — In what can be interpreted as another visible manifestation of his aversion to change, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore a No. 78 jersey for the team's final offseason training activity on Thursday.
Roethlisberger said he eschewed his regular No. 7 "in honor of" former Steelers left tackle Max Starks, who tore a knee ligament during the January playoff loss in Denver and remains unsigned. It's the second consecutive season Roethlisberger made such a public suggestion to the organization to bring back his teammate and friend.
Such a move is not unlike the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback's subtle references in recent weeks on adapting to a new offense. Roethlisberger has repeatedly made it clear he was apprehensive about the transition from former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians — a close friend — to that of Todd Haley, former coach of the Chiefs.
As he walked off Heinz Field wearing the old and tattered jersey Thursday, Roethlisberger said he and the rest of the offense have "made progress" digesting the new terminology.
"Every day is a little bit better," Roethlisberger said. "I'm not saying I can go out and call a game myself right now, but I understand when he calls a play, I know what's going on for the most part. So we're getting it down to figuring it out."
Pittsburgh conducted its final non-mandatory offseason workout at its home stadium on Thursday. It was the final of 10 organized team activity sessions over the past three weeks, the others taking place at team headquarters across town.
Mandatory mini-camp — complete with full pads — will run over three days next week.
Roethlisberger said it will be a crucial week in terms of the offensive players assimilating into the new system.
"We've made some strides," Roethlisberger said. "They may not be giant strides, but they're strides forward. I don't think we've taken any backward. That's the key — and it's just OTAs right now. It will come next week for mini-camp."
Just like Haley said the day before, Roethlisberger pointed out that picking up the new verbiage is the most difficult part of adapting to a new offense for the players.