Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is playing football at the age of 36, and at least according to his long-time position coach, Randy Fichtner, he is looking and feeling better than he has in a long time.
The veteran, who has visibly slimmed down this offseason after the Steelers drafted quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, appears to be in the best shape that he has been in years, and not in the same fashion that we hear that same line every year. He has clearly made a concerted effort to improve his conditioning beyond what it has been in years.
“I know he feels better walking off the field”, Fichtner told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently. “He’s not iced down all the way with two [practice] periods left to go. I’ve seen him walk off the field a couple nights. It’s just totally different in that regard”.
Fichtner has been with the Steelers since 2007 as an inaugural member of Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s coaching staff and has spent the majority of his time since then as the quarterbacks coach, this year moving into a dual role of position coach and offensive coordinator.
“I would say it’s the best camp he’s had”, he said of Roethlisberger. “The only reason I say this is because he’s in the best shape since I’ve had him. Now, obviously, when you’re younger you know you can probably move a little better, maybe his arm might have been a tad livelier”.
For his part, the quarterback has been saying the same things. At the start of training camp, he told reporters that he felt “as good as I’ve felt in a long time health-wise” and that he still believes that he is “going up. I don’t feel like I’m coming down yet”.
It’s hard not to try to tie his newfound fitness to the purported threat of Rudolph, a quarterback that the Steelers viewed as a first-round talent and one they believe has the potential to be a future franchise player.
Following the draft, Roethlisberger publicly expressed his surprise over the team’s decision to draft a quarterback after he spoke to them and said that he felt that he could still play another three to five seasons, believing that the third-round pick would be spent more wisely on a player that could help them win a Super Bowl now.
No matter the reason for the change, it should serve the team well for their franchise quarterback to be in the best shape that he can possibly be, which should help to translate into him delivering the best performance that he is capable of producing at this point in his career.