If the Pittsburgh Steelers have any hope of having the offensive firepower to make it all the way to the Super Bowl, then they need their QB1, Ben Roethlisberger, to be able to not only play like it, but also to last through the season. Given that he tore three ligaments in his throwing elbow about 11 months ago, there is real concern about that.
But so far, every sign has been a positive one, not just about his recovery and the strength of his repaired elbow, but also about his performance. Tight end Vance McDonald in particular has been very impressed by what he’s seen of Roethlisberger throwing the ball around, particularly since training camp opened.
“I would say he is all the way back, for sure”, he told reporters earlier today about how the quarterback has looked, not just as a performer but as a motivated leader. “This is the most I have ever seen Ben in terms of his hunger for winning a championship. I can respect that being down last season made it more real for him”.
“Going through a heavy surgery for a quarterback and where he is now, it made him hungrier”, he continued. “The way he attacks the day is different. I am loving the leadership from him, the hunger, the fire. You will notice that trickle down to the entire offense. Guys are just flocking to him. The hunger is real from Ben”.
It’s far from a revelation to say that the play of the quarterback position last season was the most damning element of the Steelers’ entire roster after Roethlisberger was lost to the elbow injury in the middle of the second game of the season. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges did not play up to the level that was needed, so that places an even greater urgency on getting the starter back to his old self.
“He was pushing some of his throws and arm action to test it, whether to build confidence at that point”, McDonald said of the throwing sessions he observed with Roethlisberger during the offseason. “He was making some insane throws off his back foot, cross field to Diontae Johnson running through the end zone to the back pylon. I remember thinking at that moment, ‘golly, he is really back’. It’s crazy and awesome to see”.
It’s only gotten more intense with the team’s arrival back in training camp, and especially now with the pads on. Obviously they’re not going to be putting Roethlisberger under any real duress from a pass-rushing perspective, but this is the closest he’s come to a game in nearing a year, so the excitement is obvious and understandable.