‘Ben Roethlisberger’s in the best shape he’s been in years’ has become a perennial running joke when it comes time to report to training camp. While the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback hasn’t exactly always been known for his year-round physical fitness, he has never been out of shape by the time the team got to Saint Vincent College, even if he would take much of the offseason up to that point off—it is, after all, the offseason.
Regardless of the past, that certainly hasn’t been the case this offseason. Recently, the quarterback told Terez Paylor of Yahoo that he is “the lightest I’ve been in about 15 years”, although he would not give an exact figure. One might venture a guess that it’s in in the 235-pound range, give or take.
Not that it matters. The point is that he is in very good physical shape, particularly by his own standards that he has previously set, and that’s not by coincidence. He is driven more than he has been in a long time, to prove both to himself and to others that he is still the same player he has been, even after tearing three tendons in his throwing elbow.
Since he hadn’t thrown a ball since the middle of September, Roethlisberger spent far more time this offseason than he has in many years actually throwing during the offseason. And he has done so without pain, as he has for the majority of his NFL career, also telling Paylor that he has dealt with the elbow issue for about a dozen years.
That’s no doubt one of the reasons that he has spent a lot of the back stretch of his career consciously managing his throw during the offseason, but this time around, the throwing was a part of his rehab, and also to let himself know that he is still capable of doing it.
As he told Paylor, a normal offseason would typically involve him using the end of one season as down time until Phase One of the offseason program begins in the following new league year. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. That time belongs to the players, and even Phase One is voluntary. Everything is up to mandatory minicamp in June.
In contrast, he never stopped training this offseason. Even Randy Fichtner, who has been with Roethlisberger almost as long as anybody else, has noticed the difference. “I promise you, he has put himself in the best physical” conditioning, he told Yahoo. “As soon as I saw him, I’m like, ‘dude, he looks great’”.
There is, of course, ample photographic evidence of this already. Roethlisberger did report to training camp in great shape. He also seems to be throwing the ball very well, and according to his own testimony, without the pain that had become all to familiar for him for many years—longer than any on the outside were aware of, before it all snapped.