For some odd reason, it was made a big deal of in certain corners of the media and in Pittsburgh Steelers fandom that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not fly out all the way to the west coast in order to be on the sideline for the team’s last game against the Los Angeles Chargers, a couple of weeks after he had surgery on his elbow.
Given the reaction, it’s understandable that it could create negative optics not to have the face of your franchise out there on the sideline, especially when he was there and present and active the week before during a home game. But people who know more about the medical aspect of the discussion were far from surprised not to see him on the sideline this time.
I can’t help but wonder if this is what prompted Ian Rapoport to ask Art Rooney II this past week about what Roethlisberger’s role will be for the remainder of the season. It’s worth reminding that their last game was in prime time, so his absence was more notable nationwide in that respect.
“I think Ben’ll be around”, Rooney said on the NFL Network reporter’s podcast. “I think he plans to stay involved, that’s for sure. I think he enjoys being a part of game day and doing what he can to be a part of the effort, so I expect he’ll be around for the season, and then he’s gonna have to get into the serious part of his rehab in the offseason”.
While he wasn’t on the sideline, both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges have talked about how Roethlisberger has essentially taken them under his wing and offered them advice and encouragement. This is a far cry from the perception many had of how he would handle Rudolph after he was drafted last year.
The Steelers lost their starting quarterback just six quarters into the season before his throwing elbow ultimately gave out. It had apparently been growing into an issue leading up to that game, and obviously was exacerbated by continuing to play. It was decided following an MRI that surgery would be required and his season would be over. But he’s vowed to play out the next two years of his contract.
“All I can say is Ben felt good about how things went with the surgery”, Rooney said about Roethlisberger’s future. “His surgeon gave him a good report on how things looked, so I think he feels good about doing his rehab and being available to play next year”.
In the meantime, the Steelers will get a long look at Rudolph, whom they drafted in the third round a year ago with an eye toward possibly finding Roethlisberger’s successor. If Roethlisberger continues to play, they might miss that window, but this season will give them a lot of information to work with.