The prospect of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger coming back in 2020 and playing at a high level was met with skepticism given the fact that he was coming off of major surgery, in which he had three tendons in the elbow of his throwing arm reattached after tearing.
There is natural concern any time a professional athlete suffers an injury to their arm when they are a quarterback or a pitcher, because there is just so much load put on it, and there are so many mechanics involved in delivering accurately and with velocity. With all things considered, though, the Steelers considered Roethlisberger’s return a success.
“I thought Ben had a very good year last year for someone who was coming off arm surgery”, Steelers president Art Rooney II told fans on Steelers Nation Unite yesterday. “Hopefully he’ll have an even better year this year with another year under his belt in terms of recovery from that arm surgery. It was a very serious surgery, and we were uncertain how well he’d be able to recover from it, but he did a great job rehabbing”.
Roethlisberger started 16 games back in 2018, during which he put up some significant numbers. He completed 452 of 675 pass attempts for 5129 yards, throwing a career-high and franchise-record 34 touchdowns, while also throwing 16 interception. He still averaged a healthy 7.5 yards per attempt while greatly shortening his average time to throw, limiting his abuse by taking just 24 sacks.
Even at the start of the next season, however, he told reporters this past year that things never felt the same. He knows that he had already had minor tears in his elbow for years, well over a decade, but it had clearly deteriorated over time to the point at which it was ripe for disaster. At some point in the first half of week two against the Seattle Seahawks, he suffered three full tendon tears in his right elbow.
Needless to say, Roethlisberger missed the remainder of the season, playing six quarters without throwing a touchdown pass and embarking on a long rehabilitation process. Some wondered if he would retire, but he vowed to play out the two-year contract extension that he had signed that Summer, and he didn’t miss any games due to health in 2020.
Going 12-3 in his 15 starts (he was rested in the finale), he completed 399 of 608 pass attempts for 3803 yards, throwing 33 touchdowns to 10 interceptions—nearly as many scores as his last full season, but lowering his turnover rate.
Despite Rooney’s remarks, he had also previously made it clear that they would not have been able to keep Roethlisberger in 2021 had he not been willing to rework his deal, the terms of which ultimately included taking a $5 million pay cut from the $19 million he was set to earn this year. They then folded over all but the minimum base salary remaining into a signing bonus and spread the cap hit out over four additional void years.