Big Ben not bothered by partial rotator cuff tear
Ben Roethlisberger ran downfield hard during a kickoff coverage drill, only to become locked up with a blocker. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pulled him aside after the play and explained he didn't have the proper pursuit angle.
A few minutes before that, Roethlisberger zeroed in on trying to hit a goal post upright with a pass from about midfield. After a two-hour practice ended Wednesday, he spent time spreading extra throws to his receivers.
If the Steelers starting quarterback is making concessions to the partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that occurred midway through last season, it's not apparent a week into a training camp in which Big Ben — now 30 — appears to be throwing as much, and as accurately, as ever.
“It feels great right now,” Roethlisberger said. “It isn't a new injury. I never complained about anything.”
Even if Tomlin wouldn't dare use what arguably is his most valuable player to cover kickoffs — except for fun. Roethlisberger saw an opening during the drill, jumped in and got a 10-second taste of what it is like to play special teams.
The Steelers, of course, have long considered the two-time Super Bowl winner to be a special player.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is installing a system built around Roethlisberger's strengths — his quick release, his accuracy, his ability to fend off pass rushers and deliver a throw. If they were concerned that Roethlisberger's previously undisclosed rotator cuff problem might prove problematic, they almost certainly wouldn't construct so much of the offense around him.
Asked if he has any concerns about his quarterback's shoulder, Tomlin said, “None.”
“I thought it was a non-issue because it happened so long ago,” Roethlisberger said.
The injury occurred when Roethlisberger's shoulder became extended on a play during the 23-20 loss to Baltimore on Nov. 6. He missed only one game the rest of the season, Dec. 24 against the Rams because of a sore ankle.
A lower-grade rotator cuff tear usually does not require surgery, only rehabilitation. An injury common to athletes, it is more like inflammation, and the shoulder often returns to normal function without surgery.
“We worked really hard, getting it right to play, and I never missed any time. Doc (Dr. Jim) Bradley and (Steelers athletic trainer) John Norwig and the trainers spent so much time rehabbing it and getting it right,” Roethlisberger said.
The injury had no appreciable effect on his performance, at least statistically. He completed 63 percent of his 192 passes after the injury and 63 percent of his 321 passes before it.
“There was no injection, no surgery, nothing but simple rehab,” Roethlisberger said. “It was never an issue, and I've dealt with a lot of pain. That wasn't going to take me out. … I didn't see any dropoff in my play.”
His only concession is that he isn't throwing as much.
“I haven't seen any side effects or loss of strength,” Roethlisberger said. “(There are) less throws because of that (injury) and because I am getting a little bit older. I might as well save the arm a little bit. The doctor said, ‘Let's avoid throwing too much.'”
Roethlisberger hopes to be throwing in the near future to holdout receiver Mike Wallace, who remains a holdout.
Roethlisberger and Wallace are talking frequently, and the quarterback predicts his top downfield threat will be back soon.
“I'm sure he'll be here and be with us before the first game,” Roethlisberger said. “I don't think he'll wait very long.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.