NFL teams do not subject their quarterbacks to much contact during the offseason process, or even during in-season practices, and for good reason. Having your franchise quarterback go down for the season because your third-string outside linebacker tackled him awkwardly trying to catch coaches’ eyes would not go over well.
As a consequence, though, playing in the regular season for the first time can be a shock to the system in terms of physicality. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted he’s feeling those hits from the first game today, though no more than expected.
“Sore. Like I anticipated”, he responded earlier today when asked how he was feeling physically after his first full game since January. He played only three drives in the preseason. “If you don’t get hit for a while, you’ll have a lot more bumps and bruises than usual”.
The real question, of course, is not how his body generally is feeling, but rather specifically the elbow on his throwing arm he had surgically repaired two years ago. “Yeah, it feels great”, he said. “It’s probably the only part of my body that felt good when I came out of the game so that’s encouraging and positive”.
Roethlisberger missed the vast majority of the 2019 season after he suffered three ruptured tendons in his right elbow, the culmination of a cumulative wear and tear that led to him having extremely rare surgery for a quarterback.
While he felt good last season, he has spoken earlier this year about how the elbow feels even better this year, and how, in comparison, he now realizes that he may not have been as far along, so to speak, during the 2020 season as he thought he was.
Of course, your elbow feeling better doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re playing better, and I don’t think we can say based off of the season opener that Roethlisberger is playing on another level this year that he didn’t have in 2020.
It’s still very early in the season, and hopefully that will change as the year progresses, but his accuracy was certainly off for much of the game, even if it improved as the clock wound down. According to Pro Football Reference, he had the highest ratio of bad throws of all starting quarterbacks in Week 1.
But the first step to playing well is feeling well, and aside from bumps and bruises, it sounds like Roethlisberger’s throwing arm is in good shape. Not that we expected anything different, necessarily, after he played through the entirety of last season without major incident relating to his elbow.