Since the 2016 season, Ben Roethlisberger has averaged about 20 or so snaps over the course of the preseason, including exactly 20 snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the preseason schedule of 2019. It was in 2016 that he began playing only in the third preseason game, having previously been liable to play a few drives in the first two games as well, for around 40 snaps in total.
Naturally, he told reporters earlier today that a part of him was looking forward to playing in the preseason this year, after having had three tendons in his throwing elbow surgically reattached about 10 months ago. As you know, because of the pandemic, the preseason was scrubbed for 2020.
“You know, I bet you’d never think you’d hear a 17-year vet say that he misses preseason a little bit”, he joked with reporters. “I actually kind of was excited for it, a little bit, to get out there. I don’t know if Coach T would’ve let me play, but I would’ve asked him, because I wanted to get in there and kind of get the feel of it again”.
Earlier in the offseason, while all the news about Roethlisberger’s recovery from elbow surgery had been positive, we heard from the team that they felt they may have to essentially protect the quarterback from himself, because, knowing the competitor that he is, he would want to push it further than necessary.
His desire, even if half-kidding, to participate in the preseason is a reflection of that. Nevertheless, the instinct to want to play in the preseason is reasonable, for a number of reasons, not the least being the anxiousness of wanting to get back on the field—but also so that your first time back on the field is without stakes.
“It’s definitely gonna be different, knowing that the first time you’re out there, it’s on the line and guys are counting on you”, Roethlisberger said. “So, a lot more added pressure. I’m gonna have pressure on myself, obviously, but I don’t want to let the guys down, so I’m gonna do everything that I can to make sure that I’m playing my best, or at least just not hurting the team when the time comes, not having that extra preseason stuff”.
While he has reportedly been throwing a good amount this offseason, including at times even inviting teammates to stay with him so that they could work together—as opposed to taking teammates out on a retreat—no amount of throwing will properly simulate being chased down by a blitzer on third and seven, down six points, with under two minutes to play and from your own 28-yard line.