Does Ben Roethlisberger have enough magic left in his surgically reconstructed right arm to help the Pittsburgh Steelers make one more Super Bowl run before Father Time catches completely up with the 38-year-old quarterback?
There will be plenty of stars on the field Monday night when the New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Saquon Barkley of the Giants. T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Steelers. For starters.
None, though, will draw the curiosity of Roethlisberger, entering his 17th NFL season.
After years on elbow pain, Roethlisberger finally succumbed in Week 2 last season, eventually having surgery to repair three torn flexor tendons in his right elbow.
With an abbreviated training camp and no preseason games, everyone will want to see how much zip Big Ben has on his fastball.
Even Roethlisberger himself admitted to Pittsburgh media during the week that he is exceedingly nervous about Monday night.
“I’ll tell you what, I was driving in today, this was no joke. I was crossing the Veterans Bridge, and I was thinking to myself, “Man, I’m actually nervous for this season.” You always have a little bit of jitters and nerves for the first game, but the way I feel now is more than I have felt in a very long time,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m sure it’s only going to intensify as the week goes on. Then, Monday night, I’m sure I’m going to be shaking like a leaf.”
Roethlisberger seemed to welcome the jitters.
“If I wasn’t nervous, and I didn’t have that anxiousness, I think you shouldn’t be out there. There’s not a love for the game if you don’t have that,” he said. “I think since I have those nerves already, it just shows that I still love this game and am still passionate for it, and I want to go out and win for my teammates, the fans and the city.”
Jeff Hartman of SB Nation’s Steelers website, Behind The Steel Curtain, has no doubt that Roethlisberger will be able to make the necessary throws on Monday night.
“Throughout training camp Roethlisberger has proven time and time again that he is capable of making every single throw that a quarterback at the NFL level would need to make, and at a high level,” Hartman said on Friday’s ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast.
Hartman said Roethlisberger, after years of elbow pain, has reported not having any discomfort while throwing this summer.
“Kevin Colbert, the general manager, spoke openly about how Ben could come back and be better and stronger than what he was before and the fans kinda scoffed at that,” Hartman said. “Come to find out that might actually be true.”
Here is what Colbert told The Ringer about his team’s quarterback.
“Physically I think he’s fine. His arm has been fine in training camp. He should be fresher because he didn’t have a year’s worth of hits on his body, movement on his legs,” Colbert said.
“His mindset, too. Ben is a Hall of Fame quarterback and he doesn’t have to do this. The fact that he wants to do this, and wants to accomplish even more is a great mindset and a great example to our younger players. That it means that much to him. That’s really the only reason he continues to play, is he wants to win more Super Bowls.”
How much longer will Roethlisberger play before he joins Eli Manning as a retired member of the historic 2004 quarterback class?
“I don’t know. I honor my contract and know it’s got one more year on it, but I’m going to give this season everything I have, especially since I didn’t get to play last year,” Roethlisberger said. “This season means a lot to me. I’m going to give everything I have and see what happens.”
Giants’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, in his first season and scrambling to build a functional secondary with a number of players who are practicing this week for the first time as Giants, is preparing for vintage Big Ben.
“I tried to shave so you guys wouldn’t see all the gray hair this week is causing,” Graham said when I asked him about Roethlisberger. “I’m curious and we will have to figure it out. We’ll have to adjust. I know this, he is one of the best to ever do it. He can throw the ball anywhere, he’s tough. That’s the thing that stands out. He is one of the toughest players to ever play in this league. For a young team that we have, we try to explain to them, listen, no play is over. He can get the ball anywhere.”
At least, that was once the case. We have all watched the 240-pound Roethlisberger bounce off pass rushers and deliver big-time strikes down the field. Can he and his re-constructed elbow still do it?
The Giants get to be the first team to find out on Monday night.