Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t thrown anything since undergoing elbow surgery back in September. That, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ron Cook, might be changing sometime soon. The Steelers‘ veteran quarterback, according to Cook, will visit his doctors in Los Angeles on Feb. 21. Roethlisberger is hoping to get clearance to start throwing tennis balls and “other light objects.” Cook added that Big Ben remains confident that he will be ready when the Steelers begin their offseason workouts in May.
Roethlisberger, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on Mar. 2, missed 14 games last season after sustaining the elbow injury. With Roethlisberger sidelined, Pittsburgh’s offense struggled to keep pace with its emerging defense, a unit that boasted four Pro Bowl players in DE Cam Heyward, OLB T.J. Watt, cornerback Joe Haden, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. While the Steelers’ defense finished fifth in the NFL in scoring, tied for first in sacks, and third in fewest passing yards allowed, Pittsburgh’s offense finished just 27th in scoring, 31st in passing and 29th in rushing. Pittsburgh’s offense was also last in the NFL in red zone efficiency a year after being tops in the NFL in that department.
The Steelers suffered other significant injuries throughout the course of the 2019 season, losing running back James Conner for six games and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for four games. They also lost DE Stephon Tuitt for the year six games into the season. Despite the injuries and lack of production on the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers went 7-1 after a 1-4 start to get themselves inside the AFC playoff race with three games remaining in the regular season. Pittsburgh’s improbable playoff run fell short, however, as the Steelers dropped their final three games to finish with an 8-8 record.
Pittsburgh’s quarterback room will look slightly different in 2020, as the Steelers hired Matt Canada, a longtime college assistant that recently served as Maryland’s offensive coordinator/interim head coach in 2018. And while the Steelers seem comfortable with Mason Rudolph serving as Big Ben’s primary backup in 2020, the Steelers will likely bring in competition to compete with Devlin Hodges to be the team’s No. 3 quarterback.
Roethlisberger, who is eighth all-time in career passing yards, ninth in touchdown passes and sixth all-time in wins by a starting quarterback, has two years remaining on his current contract. And despite last season’s injury, Big Ben said — via his Twitter account on Dec. 25 — that he has no intention of following 2004 draft classmate Eli Manning into retirement.
“Contrary to recent reports out there about my football future and my ‘uncertainty’ about playing again,” Roethlisberger wrote, “I am working hard and am more determined than ever to come back stronger and better than ever next year!”
With their defense mostly intact, expect the Steelers to use the majority of their 2020 draft picks on the offensive side of the ball. Specifically, expect the Steelers to make upgrades at the tight end and receiver positions heading into the 2020 season.