Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not at his best in the team’s regular-season debut against the Buffalo Bills, but with help from the defense and special teams, it was enough to get the W on the board. The offense, though, moved much better in the second half, in what is hopefully an indication of things to come.
Importantly, at 39 years old, he feels good, all things considered, especially his throwing elbow, which he had surgically repaired roughly two years ago. Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show, head coach Mike Tomlin talked about where his franchise quarterback is on Thursday.
“He’s physically in good shape. You know how it is. The second year off of an injury, you’re really back to yourself”, he told his host. “He had an offseason. He’s doing really good physically. But more than that, I think he’s just having fun playing football. I think he’s enjoying the mentorship that comes with his job”.
Roethlisberger saw a number of veterans exit this offseason, with Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald (perhaps David DeCastro as well) to retirement, while others like Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and James Conner all left in free agency. Only five starters, including himself, return from last year’s offense.
Not only in terms of personnel, which has four rookies starting, the unit also underwent a renovation, with a new offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach, new quarterbacks coach, and new tight ends coach, all of whom are making an impact. But the most immediate is the new starters surrounding him.
“He’s looking at four young people in that huddle, and others that are new to us, so I think that’s a fun challenge for him”, Tomlin said of Roethlisberger embracing a mentorship role for young players like Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr. “At least his actions show that they are”.
As have his public comments. He has talked earlier in the offseason about feeling energized and excited about the challenge of learning and implementing a new system under first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
While he surely misses being around those who were his close friends like Pouncey, DeCastro, and McDonald—think about it, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the second-longest-tenured offensive player now, and he’s doing milk crate challenges—I do believe he is all in on this offense, invested in bringing it up and bring up the players around him into a cohesive and effective unit.