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Former Steelers Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis did a couple of interviews yesterday on the first day of the Super Bowl virtual media row. In an interview with Mackenzie Salmon of USA Today Sports, Bettis was asked about the future of former teammate Ben Roethlisberger.
"You know what, I saw Ben this year and it wasn't an issue of could he still throw the football down the field," Bettis said. "It was he had some accuracy issues and things of that nature. And that tells me when that happens, you've got to go back to your fundamentals. Obviously, the big concern was arm strength. Can he throw it? And I think the focus was there as opposed to let's get back to basics. You were out a full year, let's get your fundamentals corrected. And I think that's something that he needs to work on for next year."
Roethlisberger's deep ball was off for most of the season until it came to life in the second half against the Colts when he led the Steelers from a 17-point deficit to beat Indianapolis 28-24 in Week 16. Of course, Roethlisberger was coming off major elbow surgery after playing just a total of six quarters in 2019, so that could have been the cause of his deep ball being not being accurate often, along with not getting as many reps in the offseason.
As Bettis mentioned, Roethlisberger can still sling it, but the soon-to-be 39-year-old quarterback dealt with knee issues in 2020, which could have played a factor for Roethlisberger when trying to step into his throws when going deep.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Roethlisberger suffered a hyperextended knee in Week 13 against the Washington Football Team. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports also mentioned that Roethlisberger was dealing with a knee injury. The first report of Roethlisberger dealing with knee problems was in Week 9 against the Cowboys when he sustained injuries to both knees.
"There’s serious concern in the Steelers organization about Roethlisberger’s knee,” La Canfora reported on Dec. 13. “It’s been bothering him for weeks and sources say it’s not getting any better, an issue in practices and in games.”
Roethlisberger refuted La Canfora's report three days later.
"Yeah, I mean, I’m 38 years old. I’ve played football for 17 years. I’ve had multiple surgeries. I saw that report," Roethlisberger said. "I don’t know where it came from. I think it was the one that said the Steelers were concerned. I would love to know who that was or who told him because the week before against Washington I was having issues with my knee, landed on it, had something going on, but other than just an old knee and arthritis, my knee actually feels really good this week, especially after playing on an artificial surface. Typically, that is another issue that makes it kind of ache.
"After last week, it feels pretty good. That report to me is just one of those phony kinds of things that people sometimes want to make up. I actually feel pretty good."
Roethlisberger had a 22-4 touchdown-interception ratio in his first nine games this season. In the final seven games, he had a 15-10 touchdown-interception ratio. He threw at least one interception in six of the last seven games. He had a 100 quarterback rating or better eight times this season, but seven of them occurred in the first nine games.
Despite other media pundits and some fans, Bettis doesn't think Roethlisberger is done and he still offers plenty to the Steelers.
"I think he still can be the answer short term, obviously," Bettis said. "But if you can work with him, just get the accuracy back, it was never an issue of could he get it to the guys. Just get the accuracy back, get him feeling good about himself and go out there and play well and ask Ben to help in the maturation process of one of the other guys behind him."