Coach Tomlin steps in for Big Ben at youth camp

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been booted from a

youth football camp in Pittsburgh, with coach Mike Tomlin taking

over as his last-minute replacement.

Tomlin has agreed to fill in for his quarterback in putting on a

three-day youth football camp that will be held next month at a

suburban Pittsburgh high school.

Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old

college student in Milledgeville, Ga., in March. Although he was

not charged, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the two-time

Super Bowl champion six games for violating the league’s personal

conduct policy.

Formerly known as the Ben Roethlisberger Football Camp, the camp

is now being called the Coach Tomlin Football Camp, and will be

held June 21-23 at Mars Area High School. The camp, run by ProCamps

Worldwide, is open to youngsters between the ages of 7 and 14.

ProCamps spokeswoman Julie Roberts said the company worked

together with the other parties involved to make the change from

Roethlisberger to Tomlin.

Mike Norton, a spokesman for title sponsor Old Spice’s

sports-related programs, said ProCamps was responsible for

selecting the players and coaches involved in all its camps.

In addition to Old Spice, the camp has 20 sponsors or partners,

including two presenting sponsors, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield

and Bowser, a Pittsburgh car dealership. The camp lists 17 other

corporations or businesses as partners, including Outback

Steakhouse, McDonald’s, Bridgestone, Pizza Hut, Verizon Wireless,

Fifth Third Bank, Fairfield Inn, Nike, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

and KDKA-TV.

“We had nothing to do with the name change,” said Aaron

Billger, a Highmark spokesman. “We are sponsors of programs that

focus on kids and kids’ health … and this program is about

getting young people outside and active.”

It is uncertain if any of the corporate or business sponsors

threatened to pull out if Roethlisberger continued to run the camp,

but there were concerns about being linked to a camp headed by


Roethlisberger was ordered by the NFL to undergo an evaluation,

and he is currently barred from attending any team activities and

offseason practices.

“At the request of Ben Roethlisberger, I have agreed to host

this year’s Youth Football Camp,” Tomlin said in a statement given

to The Associated Press. “Ben has expressed his hopes that this

outstanding community program can continue despite his absence as

he addresses issues regarding his personal life. The camp already

has a significant number of kids signed up who are expecting a

great experience, and both Ben and I want to make sure they are not


“Helping children understand and enjoy the game of football has

been a passion of mine for many years. I look forward to this

opportunity to use football to teach important life lessons to all

the kids in attendance.”

Campers are promised nine hours of football instruction, a

T-shirt and a team photo signed by Tomlin. Nearly 500 youngsters

attended last year, the camp’s second year of existence.

It is uncommon for NFL coaches to stage such youth camps because

they take place during what normally is their vacation period,

between the time when voluntary offseason practices end and

training camp begins.