James Conner may have only been with the Pittsburgh Steelers for going on four years now, but he has been following the team as a fan for all of his life. So it’s not as though he has been unfamiliar with the course of the journey that has been Ben Roethlisberger’s career as he heads into his 17th season as Pittsburgh’s quarterback.
Of course, the 2020 season for Roethlisberger will be unlike any other, and not just because of the pandemic that has left much of the world at a standstill, or at least in slow motion. It’s because of the fact that he is coming off the worst football injury of his life, repairing (presumably) tears suffered in his elbow that required surgery, and from which he continues to rehab.
In spite of the fact that he has been sidelined since mid-September, Roethlisberger’s role never changed at least in one respect, and that is as the leader of the team. His leadership presence has been consistent throughout, as has been attested to by the young quarterbacks who had to fill in for him.
Even now, through the Covid-19 pandemic, he is trying to do his part by keeping in touch with his teammates, as Conner said during a Sports Center interview. “Before all this happened, he was down, rehabbing and stuff, just checking in on me, me checking in on him”.
“I know he’s doing great”, he said of Roethlisberger. “He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s a professional, he knows exactly what to do and how to bounce back. Just making sure that everybody’s staying ready. And he’s our leader, so, this next year when he’s healthy and JuJu’s healthy, and our defense coming back, we’re gonna put these pieces together. It just takes patience, but we’re looking forward to it”.
Roethlisberger would miss 14 games last season, leaving in the middle of the Week Two game against the Seattle Seahawks with what would prove to be a far more serious injury than anybody had anticipated, including the quarterback himself.
Needless to say, the team struggled without him, with the offense pretty much slowing to a crawl, ranking toward the bottom in most statistical categories, including points scored, with the defense and special teams even spotting them four touchdowns.
Assuming that he is actually able to come back healthy and to play at his typical level, Roethlisberger should make a tremendous difference to this team based on the quality of quarterback play that was on display while he was sidelined.
But before we can even get on the field, we have to go through all the work that it takes to reach that point. And Roethlisberger’s leadership, even through social distancing, has been felt.