Even though he was injured for most of last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers still had Ben Roethlisberger around the building and on the sidelines as a leader and a motivator. But there is only so much that you can do as an observer. Especially in a physical context, leadership is often conveyed through example, and we have seen Roethlisberger take that mantle this season.
“There’s a fire under Ben that not only do I see, but other people picked up on it”, tight end Vance McDonald, who is one of Roethlisberger’s closest teammates on the team, told reporters earlier today. “He’s got qualities in him that he’s just a natural leader. That’s just contagious”.
As surely everybody reading this knows, Roethlisberger spent the bulk of the past year overcoming a severe elbow injury that required a surgical procedure to reattach three tendons in the elbow of his throwing arm. His dedication and commitment to this process has been inspiring to others, as has his continued push to get better since he has been back on the field.
“To see a guy like Ben come out and been doing it for so long and he’s doing little things each day to improve his game, it’s contagious for guys to see it”, McDonald said. “His natural leadership ability, he’s going to bring guys along with him”.
“Obviously at his position being a quarterback and stuff, too, it adds even more weight, because there’s always a sort of leadership role that a quarterback has to maintain on any team, just because of the position itself”, he continued. “So, we are very fortunate to have a player like Ben, a leader like Ben, that’s carrying us this season”.
Through three games, Roethlisberger has completed 73 of 109 pass attempts for 777 yards with seven touchdown passes to one interception. While the perception is that he is playing more small ball, the reality is that his current numbers are not substantially far off from 2018.
That year, for example, he averaged 7.8 intended air yards per attempt (basically average depth of target). This year, it’s currently sitting at 7.1, which is the biggest difference. But his completed air yards per attempt has dropped just from 5.1 to 5.0. His yards after the catch average has dipped from 6.2 to 5.7.
All of these numbers, of course, come from a relatively small sample size, and under very atypical circumstances, with a quarterback coming back from an extreme injury in the middle of a pandemic and throwing primarily to targets that he hasn’t spent much time with.
That in itself has also driven his extra push to improve himself week by week, knowing that he is still working to get back to where he was before the injury. And that, in turn, continues to motivate those around him who witness the efforts he is putting in.