At the end of the day, football isn’t just one thing. It’s a business, but it’s a game, too. And the vast majority of those who are playing the game, still love the game. Players like Eric Weddle or Larry Fitzgerald or Ben Roethlisberger are not looking to secure their financial future at this stage of their careers. The money’s nice, sure, but they’re still playing because they love it, and because they’re competitors.
Even if we’re talking about a game where the scoreboard doesn’t matter. It’s true that in this era of the NFL, many starters no longer play in the preseason outside of perhaps a quarter or two in one game. Increasingly, coaches are even moving toward not playing some stars at all.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Roethlisberger will not be one of them. He knows that he’ll be in uniform and prepared to play in a couple days’ time. And he’s excited about it. He felt the difference this past week going out there and practicing.
“It’s been fun. This week in practice I felt a little different”, he told reporters following yesterday’s practice, via the team’s website. “Maybe it’s in part being back here, in part knowing I am going to get to play a little bit. I have had a little juice bolt, whatever you want to call it to get you going. This week has been exciting so far knowing you are going to get some reps, get out there with the guys and have some fun. I definitely feel what they are feeling”.
The real work doesn’t start for Roethlisberger and ‘the guys’ who will actually be on the field most of the time until kickoff in New England in early September. But there’s a football game to be played on Sunday, and while they’re out there, they will relish that time.
The 37-year-old also talked about how he and Mike Tomlin don’t always see eye to eye about when he’s gotten enough work. He said there are times where he wanted another drive because he wasn’t happy with how they were moving the ball. But as should be no surprise, the head coach has the final say.
It’s all part of the preparatory process for the games that matter. But it’s still the game. It’s still that same sport you grew up playing, and grew up loving, and that feeling doesn’t leave you easily. That’s why so many players have a hard time knowing when to retire, even to the detriment of their long-term physical or cognitive health.
More generally speaking, the reports have been numerous in stating that Roethlisberger appears to be enjoying himself more this year than he has in a while. He has even alluded to this himself. I can’t imagine why that might be, but I’m sure he’s going to enjoy throwing the ball around to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson in Tennessee.