The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: It’s now safe to assume that Ben Roethlisberger should be expected to have a completely normal, healthy season.
Explanation: The 38-year-old quarterback has been rehabbing from elbow surgery since September after being limited to just six quarters last season. He told his wife that he wouldn’t shave his beard until he could throw a ‘legit NFL pass’. He posted a video yesterday of himself throwing to teammates and then shaving off the beard.
The beard is a significant symbol precisely because of the meaning that Roethlisberger gave to it. it’s basically the signal that he’s now comfortable with where he is and where he’s going. He didn’t make this a landmark arbitrarily. It’s essentially the tipping point, or the peak of the mountain. If you can reach the summit, then the rest of the journey is downhill.
Roethlisberger has been throwing footballs for a few months now. His throws have been carefully monitored and compared against control numbers to measure for velocity and spin. That’s how he knows if he’s throwing a ‘legit NFL pass’, and whether or not the beard is ready to go.
The beard is gone. Only he is capable of making that determination, and he did. The shaven face is all the proof that you need.
The ability to throw an NFL pass is no doubt the summit in his journey over the mountain that is rehab. But plenty of adventurers don’t make it down all the way. It’s one thing to throw a handful of passes to teammates in a very controlled environment.
It’s another thing entirely to be able to hold up to throwing 600 times in a season while taking hits from opposing players. Put simply, we won’t know that his elbow can hold up through the rigors of a standard NFL season unless or until it actually does. We can assume that he’s in position to find out if he can sustain his condition through an NFL year, but that’s it.