Sports

Big Ben refreshed, says arm feels ‘really good’

PITTSBURGH — Entering his 18th season, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feels “fresher” than he did this time a year ago. Roethlisberger had a normal offseason for the first time since his season-ending elbow surgery in 2019, and he felt the effects of it Thursday at the Steelers’ first training camp practice.

“This time last year, I had thrown thousands of footballs trying to get ready for this,” Roethlisberger said. “This year, this was the first time I’ve thrown a ball since minicamp, other than throwing to my son in the backyard. It just feels more normal of an offseason, if you will.

“My arm feels really, really good.”

Roethlisberger, 39, admitted during OTAs earlier this offseason that his arm bothered him at times last year. This year, though, he enters training camp another season removed from the surgery having taken fewer reps — something that’s important as the team embarks on a preseason with an additional week of training camp followed by a 17-game regular season.

Roethlisberger, though, is focused on more than just his elbow. He also used the offseason to hone in on his body’s specific needs as an aging quarterback.

“I think as you get older, we all have to find ways to exercise more, eat better, do all the things. I’ve been doing that for a few years now,” he said, also refuting the report that he was on a diet stricter than Tom Brady‘s infamous regimen.

“You work on your diet. You work on your exercise. You work on yourself to get ready to play this game at this age and for this many years. You find ways to do it.”

For Roethlisberger, the offseason training extended beyond the physical components. In the offseason, the Steelers promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, and in doing that, ushered in an overhauled offensive scheme filled with misdirection, jet sweeps and new verbiage. To help navigate all the newness, Roethlisberger enlisted the help of his daughter, who made flashcards and quizzed him on Canada’s terms.

“We’ve done that together,” Roethlisberger said. “There have been some quizzes at home. It’s become as much of a mental offseason as it has physical in terms of learning new things. If you talk about the percentage of new, the run game formations, everything, it’s a high percentage of new. It’s a challenge.”

But even if the terms were different, many of the plays still looked the same — including a bubble screen pass to Diontae Johnson that the wide receiver turned into a long touchdown.

“The play looked familiar, but not one thing was called the same,” Roethlisberger said. “The blocking was different. Plays may look the same but they’re going to be called differently. But hopefully, we’ll see those results a lot.”

To execute plays like that in Canada’s scheme, Roethlisberger admitted to referencing the cheat sheet on his arm, a crutch that will likely disappear as he gets more and more comfortable in the offense.

“If you notice, I’m looking at the wristband quite a bit,” Roethlisberger said. “We all are. All of the quarterbacks are trying to look at it and figure it out. “New isn’t always bad, new is new.”

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