The Pittsburgh Steelers know they made major strides on the defensive side of the ball last season. They also know that in this day and age, that’s not enough to play into February the way the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs have been able to for the 2019 season.
So there’s just a big cloud hanging over their offseason as they await word on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is still in the relatively early stages of rehab from a serious elbow injury that required surgery. He was limited to just six quarters of play at the beginning of his 16th season in the NFL before succumbing to the cumulative wear and tear that in an instant became too much.
Back at the end of the season, head coach Mike Tomlin said that the significant date for Roethlisberger—or at least the first significant one—would be at the beginning of February. He is scheduled to have an important checkup at that time that will be very telling about the progress he has made up to this point and what his next steps are, as well as how soon he can take them.
Veteran defensive end Cameron Heyward is the longest-tenured member of the defense, and the third-longest on the team overall behind Roethlisberger, so few know the quarterback in that locker room the way he does, or have seen as much of his career up close and personal.
He was doing the media rounds yesterday over the course of Super Bowl week and serving as the ambassador and voice of the Steelers during this time. One of his stops was on The Zach Gelb Show, and he was asked by his host to address the team’s thoughts on Roethlisberger and where he is, especially given that he is closing in on 40.
“It’s tough, but Ben’s tough. Going forward, I know it’s tougher for older players, but, why not come back?”, he said. “I think he’s poised for a big year. He’s got to get his name back on that list. I think everybody’s been writing him off, but I think he could play into his 40s. I like the way he takes care of his body. To play this long into your career is tough, and for him to do that, he’s got to be doing some right things”.
While it has become something of a running joke that Roethlisberger is said to be in the worst shape of his career in the spring, and then in the best shape of his career in the summer, the veteran quarterback actually has made significant alterations to his offseason regimen in recent years, especially as he cut down on throwing the football, which included hiring a physical trainer.
Presumably, this is as long as Roethlisberger has gone without throwing a football since…perhaps since he was a little kid. I would imagine he’s eager to do so again as soon as it is physically possible and safe for him to do so.