Roethlisberger: Look The Part To Play The Part

By Jeremy Hritz

Pittsburgh Steelers fans across the world are grateful for the last eight seasons of football that Ben Roethlisberger has made possible. From his unprecedented winning streak during his rookie season, to three Super Bowl starts, Big Ben is one of the primary reasons that the Steelers are always in the running for a Lombardi come playoff time.

There is no denying the connection between the body composition of athletes and their performance, but if there is one thing that does not get much attention when discussing Roethlisberger, as if it is taboo, it is his physical shape. A question that warrants some attention this offseason is this: is Big Ben physically fit, and how much does his conditioning impact his play?

During Roethlisberger’s first and second years in the league, his physical appearance was large, yet lean. Since that time however, there has been a noticeable change in his physical appearance that cannot be denied (do a quick Google image search and compare the differences if you don’t believe me). While the height and weight statistics on Ben have not changed since his rookie year (6’5, 241), over the years the observant spectator has almost surely noticed that Ben is carrying some excess pounds, which are not of the lean muscle variety. There is no question that Roethlisberger has shown up to training camp in acceptable shape over the years, but as the franchise quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, shouldn’t the expectation be greater?

Take into consideration for the moment Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees, all of whom are considered to the be the upper-echelon-elite quarterbacks of the National Football League. While none of these three Super Bowl winners are over 6’4, nor are they stacked with muscle and striated like bodybuilders, all three of them can be considered physically fit and lean. Another thing to consider is that outside of a fluke ACL tear, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees are rarely hurt and forced to miss game time. Roethlisberger on the other hand seems to struggle weekly to overcome an injury, causing him to miss game time, impacting the effectiveness of his team. The offensive line issues of the Steelers are well documented and known, and are primarily the reason for the punishment that Ben takes, but would he be less fragile if his physical fitness were at a greater level? Beyond that, how much more escapable and mobile would a lean, fit Roethlisberger be to make more of his trademark explosive plays downfield?

Roethlisberger, who will turn 30 in a few weeks, more than ever needs to invest more in his health and conditioning. In a recent interview with Ed Bouchette, Roethlisberger pointed out that he “want[s] to come to camp lighter than I\’ve ever come, in better shape,” and that he has already began working out for the 2012 season. This is tremendous. If Roethlisberger does emerge from this offseason in his best ever shape, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact this will have on his performance, and whether he or not he can make it through the entire season without an injury. A lean and supremely conditioned Ben has nothing to do with being a GQ, pretty boy, beach body, but rather a stronger, quicker, and more durable version of himself. Regardless, as a captain of one of the greatest franchises in sports history, and as a $108 million dollar Super Bowl winning quarterback, Big Ben needs to look the part so that he can play the part and keep himself on the field.

  • Joe D

    I don’t understand why these 10 year contracts don’t have a “weight” clause or physical fitness clause in them.
    This article is spot on…
    Ben needs to get in shape..
    Injuries are due to lack of conditioning… muscles, etc.. it not just how much you weigh but if your muscles are in condition to take the beating..
    obviously… Ben’s is not!

  • Ron Jammes

    I see Ben during the season on my daily walk thru the S water st area. My coworkers and I think he looks great. He’s a big guy, not muscular but country strong. I know his face is a little pudgy but my buddy at UPMC says that it’s probably a result of his facial surgery where most people would be getting a tuck by now. Relax, this is really a misplaced opinion

  • Paul

    You’re being ridiculous, how would you know his conditioning?

  • Heathicus

    I hope you realize that the kind of hits he took would have injured him regardless of his conditioning. Are you telling me he would be OK if he was in better shape on that hit he took in the Seahawks game? That was the side of the knee. Conditioning didn’t matter.

    In fact, none of the damaging hits he took would have been mitigated with better conditioning. They were all LOW BLOWS – there’s just not much you can do about that…

  • Blountkf

    I generally really like your posts, but this is ludicrous. The assertion that Ben gets hurt because he’s out of shape is whacked! Over the past 3 seasons, Ben is the leading sack-taker among all of the QBs that you mention, taking far more sacks than Brees and Brady. That’s mostly due to the atrocious line we’ve had. Just look back at the great animation you had earlier this year of Jon Scott’s ass block against the Colts. Ben is often running for his life back there. It is true that Ben’s playing style contributes to getting sacked more, but that’s the price of extending a play long enough to make a TD pass to a guy who got open after 5 seconds. That’s what we get with Ben. If we can’t upgrade the line, I recommend Ben start eating snowballs and zingers to build up a little more padding!

  • greeny

    Are you kidding me. The other quarterbacks mentioned plus virtually every other one in the league as a better offensive line. Thank god he is a big boy

  • SteelersDepot

    That was written by Jeremy you will notice, so he will have to respond to your criticism.

  • Hroark311

    Do you believe that Ben is in elite shape for an NFL quarterback?

  • John B.

    For this i think his size has helped him evade alot of the sacks too. Unlike Brady and Brees. None of the guys mentioned can extend the plays like Big Ben can…well maybe Aaron Rodgers, but the o-line comes into play as well. Personally i thought Ben looked really good and sharp after working out and conditioning during his 4 game suspension. I thought that would become a more offseason routine for him but i didnt hear anything about it last year.

  • Wdmason

    Yes a player over 30 may need to work harder to keep in shape and it couldnt hurt but the word “fragile” and Ben cannot be used in the same sentence lol.. Anyone that has lived through the Mark Malone years can thank their lucky stars for Big Ben. I can still remember Malone staring downfield at his primary target when Ben can hit the 4th or 5th option. And Kordell wasnt much better.

  • Jb

    Sorry, but you thought process is wrong! Those other quarterbacks help to make their offensive lines look better. Ben is lazy! Also, those article forgot to mention that Eli has “never” missed a game.

  • Jb

    I grew up in Pittsburgh and have been a fan of the Steelers since as young as I can remember. Buuuut, the people who keep defending BR need to knock it off! Is he a very good quarterback?… yes. Has Ben helped the Steelers to win many more games than a pedestrian quarterback would have?… absolutely. But, he is also a man-sized petulant brat! And the same fans who always/often defend him would absolutely despise him, if he was a quarterback of another team… like, lets say, the Browns for example. It’s similar to parents who will find reasons to defend their kid, when everyone else can see that their kid is obnoxious.

    Ben absolutely gets hurt too often. Eli Manning has not “missed a game” since he’s started playing in the NFL. Which, as most should realize, was the same year as Ben. So, who is tougher? And stop, with the offensive line being so bad. Certainly, it’s not great. But, Ben always sticks up for the guys on the line. That’s not because he is such a wonderful human being, or a great team mate. It’s because he understands that many, if not most, of the sacks are his responsibility. Fans point out that the other currently great quarterbacks in the NFL obviously have much better offensive line than Pittsburgh does… bull! Here is the truth people, if BR played for the Patriots, or Saints, or Colts, or Giants, then their fans would be saying, wow! we need to really improve our line because Ben is taking too many hits. As much as a good offensive line can make the quarterback look better, so too the quarterback can help/hurt how a teams offensive line is viewed by others.

    It’s time for Ben to take another step forward in maturity, as a man and a professional player. This is simply my observation, as an outsider looking in. But, it does seems from the outside as if the Steelers organization with the hiring of Todd Haley, has basically decided to mentally “smack the behind” of their child quarterback. Now, he has been crying and whining, but hopefully he will begin to reach the higher potential that Ben is capable of… we’ll see.