One of the most comical things about the 2019 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers was the Ben Roethlisberger watch, with fans scoping out any look at the sidelines for glimpse of the 16-year quarterback who had been shelved for the season due to an elbow injury. Yes, they wanted to get a look at his bionic elbow. But they were also checking to see how fat he was.
Not that he was. Flashing typically only upper-body shots in winter settings of a heavily-bearded man wearing large coats, it led people to believe that Roethlisberger had gotten out of shape, mistakenly. Speaking to Ron Cook late in the week, he said that that wasn’t the case, and, in fact, it was very much the opposite.
“I’ve heard people say I’m fat, and that just blows my mind. I’m lighter and in better shape than I was in either of the past two years”, he told Cook. “I haven’t stopped working out. I normally don’t work out in the offseason, but I’ve been doing everything five days a week with my trainer. Cardio twice a week. Legs twice a week. Upper body twice a week”.
Roethlisberger has always been a bigger-bodied figure, and not necessarily the most athletic, but he always possessed enough maneuverability to retain his elusiveness in the pocket. He is not graceful when he scrambles, but on the rare occasions that he does, he is typically able to pick up the yardage that he needs.
“I guess it’s my beard that makes me look heavier. I must have five pounds in that, I know. But I’m not overweight”, Roethlisberger said. “I normally don’t have my beard in the offseason, but this is a different offseason. I look at it as my Samson effect. As long as I have it…”.
The two-time Super Bowl champion said after he had surgery on his elbow that he would not shave his beard until he felt that he was able to throw an NFL-caliber pass. “Maybe in another month or two”, he told Cook, noting that his wife is eagerly looking forward to that day.
Last April, Roethlisberger signed a two-year contract extension worth $68 million, averaging $34 million per season in new money on the deal. Of the $65 million that he will count against the cap over the next two years, $45 million of that is now in prorated bonuses after he had his contract restructured this offseason to create cap space for 2020.
The Steelers offense struggled mightily without him last season, but saw the defense take a major step forward. They are optimistic that Roethlisberger will be able to return to play at a high level, and perhaps even come back a bit better, because he won’t be playing through certain pains he has dealt with in recent years with his elbow.