Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is entering his 15th NFL season, now at the age of 36. He knows that he is already pushing the typical shelf-life of even great NFL quarterbacks, even the elite, though they seem to be playing longer and longer as the years go on.
To hear him talk on the eve of year number 15, though, you would hardly be able to imagine that just two offseasons ago he was seriously on the border of retirement. One could argue that much has changed between now and then aside from his mind. And frankly, I’m not complaining.
During his appearance on The Fan yesterday, his hosts were asking him about the closing championship window that figures to end when his career does. I thought his answer to that question was an interesting one, if not telling.
“You know what? It’s crazy to say this, but I feel, with me working out, the shape that I’m in, the linemen and everything, I don’t feel like the window is closing as much as I maybe would have thought last year”, he said.
While the cynic will merely point out that he is now feeling the pressure from the team with two young quarterbacks behind him in Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph following the decision to let go of his trusted backup in Landry Jones, the truth is that this has been building all offseason, even before the draft.
During a similar radio appearance just after the draft, he talked about the team’s decision to draft Rudolph and expressed his surprise because, as he relayed to the audience, he informed the team that he felt, physically, that he could play for at least five more seasons.
I have no doubt that the pressure of having young quarterbacks behind him only serves to fuel the fire, but I also fully believe that it is a self-motivated one. Having multiple sources for that drive is never a bad thing, of course.
“I kind of really got my body into the best shape it’s ever been in, so I think that I feel like the window’s open and the breeze is blowing in”, said Roethlisberger, who has talked about his increased arm strength on a number of occasions this offseason. “Like I said, when you’ve got the guys in front of you that are as good as they are, and locked up for a couple years and playing just great football together…we’ll go as far as they go”.
No doubt, the stability of the line is critical, which is why the team has been investing in it heavily, both from a resources and development standpoint. Behind the starters are incubating the likes of B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, and Zach Banner, at least the first three of which I could easily envision becoming future quality starters.