Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not just present, but vocal, active, and jovial for the first session of OTAs last week. He even joked that his good friend, center Maurkice Pouncey, would never let him hear the end of it if he skipped out. Apparently he just meant for the one day, because he hasn’t been back since, and Pouncey doesn’t mind.
“He’s 15 years in now. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need to throw a curl route, you know what I mean?”, he told Jacob Klinger when asked about Roethlisberger’s comment about him on the first day of OTAs and the fact that he has not been here since then.
For what it’s worth, Pouncey said that he knew it would be like this, and that Roethlisberger had a family tripped planned and that he would be back with the team next week. Of course, he could have not planned a family trip during OTAs, presumably, leading one to wonder if that was deliberate. The team will have nearly a month off following mandatory minicamp.
For what it’s worth, I’m with Pouncey when it comes to veterans like Roethlisberger and their need to be there during OTAs. Maybe they can pop in for a few of them, but there’s really no reason for them to be there for all 10 sessions when there isn’t much they or their teammates could possibly gain from their being there that can’t wait until minicamp.
Mason Rudolph will have plenty of time during training camp, for example, to talk to and watch and learn from Roethlisberger. The two will see each other during mandatory minicamp before the summer break, too. Is missing presumably five OTA sessions really going to stunt the rookie quarterback’s growth?
Klinger said that Pouncey joked he wasn’t very worried about Tom Brady of the New England Patriots having a bad season because he, too, has not been around at OTAs for his team. He also noted that Le’Veon Bell only reported to the team six days before the season started and was still a first-team All-Pro.
I offered the topic yesterday of whether or not certain veteran players were better off not participating in OTAs, for example, because of the injury risk and the lack of much to gain from attending. There were some mixed responses, but the majority seemed to agree that it wasn’t really crucial for them to get that time in.
Sure, there is some camaraderie that you might miss out on by skipping OTAs, some team bonding, but the truth is that that process is really more about training camp than anything else. You literally dorm and live with your teammates for several weeks and your sole focus is football.
Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are certainly more than proven. Even David DeCastro said that he is practically sleepwalking through OTAs at this point of his career, and it’s really more about getting into shape heading into training camp. It’s different for the young players, but if you’ve made several Pro Bowls, you’re probably good.