They say that after a quarterback tears an ACL or suffers some type of lower body injury, they get happy feet in the pocket when they return for a while. So what happens to a quarterback when he suffers an injury to his throwing arm in his first couple of games back?
According to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is in that predicament right now, it’s a matter of learning to trust yourself and your ability to make the plays that need to be made. Even though he has completed 50 of 73 passes for 540 yards with five touchdowns to one interception so far through two games, he knows he has to get better.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I think that’s gonna be the biggest thing, is I’m just gonna have to tell myself to” trust himself and his skill players, he told reporters earlier today. “And I want to re-emphasize that it’s nothing that the guys are doing wrong”, he added; “it’s just me trusting my arm, trusting the throw, trusting that I can make it. Because they’re in the right spots. So I’m thankful for them that they’re there”.
One player in particular he focused on, that being Diontae Johnson, the second-year wide receiver with whom he had little time to work last year because he went down for the season in the middle of the second week of the season.
Roethlisberger has already targeted Johnson 23 times this season, the second-most targets for anybody in the NFL. His 14 receptions are also 11th-most, as are his nine first downs via reception. JuJu Smith-Schuster is only one reception behind with 13.
“I talked to Diontae this morning about it, that tomorrow, when we both practice, I need to keep working”, Roethlisberger said. “I was making sure he’s gonna practice tomorrow, he’s gonna be full-speed and everything like that, because we’ve just got to keep working, and really, it boils down to be needing to be better trusting myself, which then translates into trusting everyone else”.
By and large, Roethlisberger has looked like his old self so far through two games. He has been throwing short passes even more than he did in 2018, so far, but I imagine that over the course of the season he will expand his average depth of target as he gets more comfortable not just in himself, but in his playmakers as well, many of whom are still relatively new to him.
One thing he has made clear is that he realizes how special Johnson can be. His route-running and ability to create separation are the reasons that he has already been targeted 23 times, though that’s not uncommon for Roethlisberger, as he targeted Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown that frequently on many occasions. The former was targeted 30 times between weeks two and three in 2018.