By Jeremy Hritz
It’s the start of a new season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there is optimism abound, especially from the player that the team expects it from most: their franchise quarterback.
Ironically enough, just a year ago in interviews with Ben Roethlisberger during training camp, his demeanor seemed distracted and unfocused because of controversies surrounding Mike Wallace’s holdout, the departure of Bruce Arians and the installation of a new offense, and his partially torn rotator cuff.
In case you forgot, during last year’s training camp, Roethlisberger acknowledged to the media that he had a partially torn rotator cuff that he didn’t believe would impact him during the season. In discussing the injury, he said, “I’m good. It’s OK, just sore. I have a little torn rotator cuff that doesn’t heal. We just hope it doesn’t tear the rest of the way.” Those comments were harbingers of what was to come during the season.
Fast forward to 2013, and the rugged QB is humming a different tune. When he spoke to Ed Bouchette of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said, “I feel like this year could be one of my best…. I feel great. I’m ready to rock and roll.” He also said that he challenged himself this offseason: “I pushed myself to be better. I want to be better, a better player.” He also talked about how his relationship with Todd Haley is “really kind of coming together” and that the “offense is like a new toy.”
Roethlisberger expressed the same sentiment in a one-on-one interview with the Tribune Review’s Alan Robinson, where his overall tone was positive and his excitement and belief were apparent. He told Robinson, “I firmly believe my best is yet to come. I do. People may laugh, and that’s fine and people can say what they want, whatever. In my opinion I feel like I have some really good football left in me.”
What is evident when comparing Roethlisberger’s early remarks in camp is that he appears to be more focused and eager for the new season to begin. And with Mike Tomlin charging Roethlisberger with the responsibility of being more of a leader this year, you start to get the feeling that it truly could be a special one for veteran QB and the Steelers.
And there are many factors in Roethlisberger’s and the offense’s favor this year.
Firstly, Roethlisberger, or his offensive teammates, do not have the uncertainty of learning a new system this season, and having that level of comfort will help to eliminate many of the mistakes that resulted in turnovers last year.
The offense will also not have the distraction of a contract dispute whirling above their heads, and Roethlisberger and the receivers will be able to build chemistry from the outset of camp, undisturbed by late-arriving holdouts.
Most importantly, after experiencing the agony of missing the postseason and watching their division rivals winning the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger and the offense have been reinvigorated to make another push towards number seven.
Lastly, Roethlisberger may be beginning to feel his mortality as a starting quarterback in the league, and he may be realizing that as the seasons go by, so do his opportunities to win another ring.
There are still no answers to the many questions that are out there surrounding the Steelers. But with the confidence and certainty that Roethlisberger is approaching the upcoming season with, he makes the answers to those questions seem like they will be answered in favor of his team.
What else would you expect from the leader of the Pittsburgh Steelers?