Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger first came into the league in 2004. 16 years into his career, he is a much different player than he was at the time. He lacks some of the youthful athleticism that he once had, but the advancements he has made in his craft have been significant and allow him to remain competitive against any quarterback the Steelers happen to be facing.
At the age of 36 in 2018, Roethlisberger posted career-highs with 5129 passing yards—among the most ever in NFL history—and 34 touchdowns. His completion percentage of 67 was also just a tenth of a percentage point over the best he has ever posted.
Though he also posted a league-high 16 interceptions, the Steelers are comfortable with his ability to continue to play at a high level, as Art Rooney II explained to Bob Labriola after they completed a new two-year extension for their franchise quarterback.
“I think he had a great year last year in terms of he led the league in passing yardage”, he said. “And in terms of what he brings to the team, I think his track record speaks for itself. And obviously, I don’t think that we’ve seen a decline in his play. And he’s a little different quarterback than he was 15 years ago, but he’s a top tier quarterback and I think with him on the field, I think you feel like you can compete with anybody in the league on any given Sunday”.
He added, “when you look at his performance over the last few years, we have been competitive with the best teams in the league. Even last year when we didn’t make the playoffs, we were on the field with some of the best teams in the league there at the end of the season and we went toe-to-toe with them”.
The Steelers were able to defeat the New England Patriots, and were very competitive against the New Orleans Saints a week later, though they ultimately lost. In the seven games that they failed to win last season, it was the defense relinquishing a lead or a share of the lead in the fourth quarter in five of them.
Rooney was asked specifically about what Roethlisberger needs to do entering the 2019 season. He said that he believes simply that “Ben needs to be Ben”, and that includes the mindset of improving every year. “I think every player on the roster hopefully comes into the season thinking, what can I do to be better this year? And then I think Ben looks at it that way as well”.
If there is one area in which Roethlisberger can improve from last season, it is in reducing the number of throws that he puts in harm’s way. Not necessarily the passes that get intercepted, but the volume of throws that are at risk of being intercepted or defended.