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Will Ben Roethlisberger feel 'worn down' at the end of the season again this year?

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Ben Roethlisberger admitted a few weeks ago to the media that he didn't play well down the stretch last season and said he felt worn down. The last part was kind of surprising to hear Roethlisberger say, but it was an honest evaluation of himself.

“I didn’t play well enough at the end of the season,” Roethlisberger said via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s not a secret, and I’ll be the first to point the thumb at myself. When the ball is in your hand every play, you have to make plays and play better football. If the quarterback, myself, isn’t playing good football—especially late in the season—it’s directly related to winning and losing. I will take that playoff and those games on me. Just feeling worn down and not playing good enough football at the end of the season.”

When asked about his subpar deep ball last year, Roethlisberger clarified to reporters that he had major elbow surgery in September of 2019 and it was his first year back.

“I had total reconstruction on my elbow,” Roethlisberger said. “That might have something to do with it. But no excuses. My arm feels great. I would like to wait to answer that question until we get into more of this season and see how it feels. Right now, it feels really good. My arm was healed [last season], obviously. I played. It was healthy. But I think anybody that has a big surgery, it almost takes — like that first year back, you are back but are you really back and feeling great? That’s why I want to reserve to answer that question until we get into the season a little bit to let you know how my arm feels compared to last year.”

With it being his second year coming off major elbow surgery, Roethlisberger has been able to have a normal routine this offseason and not throw as much, which could have played a part in him feeling worn down in December of 2020.

“Last year, I threw thousands of balls in the offseason because we were rehabbing,” Roethlisberger said. “This year, it has gone back to the normal routine of throwing here, doing a little bit at home with the trainer. But mostly taking time off. I took a lot of time off from throwing so I hope and think and really believe it will pay dividends this year.”

There's also a common belief by some that Roethlisberger's knee injuries last year had more to do with his deep ball being off than his arm.

Following the Steelers' Week 9 win over the Cowboys last year, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Roethlisberger sustained injuries to both knees against Dallas. Rapoport said that both of Roethlisberger's knees got trapped and that his feet not being stuck in the turf saved him from a major injury.

A month later on the morning of the Steelers-Bills Week 14 game, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Roethlisberger's knee injury has become a source of greater concern within the Steelers organization. However, Roethlisberger refuted the report a few days later when he spoke with the media.

"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."

It will be interesting to see how Roethlisberger's arm and knees hold up in 2021, especially late in the year. But all reports indicate that Roethlisberger and the Steelers are hopeful that his arm will be even better this year with it being his second offseason of recovery. The Steelers are also hoping that their first-round selection Najee Harris bolsters the ailing run game and will take a lot of the load off Roethlisberger's shoulders, who attempted 608 passes last year, which was the third-most in the league and probably why he felt worn down at the end of the season.

Roethlisberger also has plenty of extra motivation this year with all the naysayers saying that he's washed up. Talking heads like Adam Schein of CBS Sports and Mike Tannebaum of ESPN both believe that Roethlisberger's the worst quarterback in the division and that's why the Steelers will finish last in the AFC North in 2021.

“I think anybody that is told they can’t do something, they are going to be motivated to go prove people wrong,” Roethlisberger said about the people who doubt him. “The other thing is, I have been doing this for long enough that you let it motivate you but you don’t let it drive you or push you into just being so crazy that I have to prove that person wrong. Because at the end of the day, you are just trying to win a football game and a championship. I’m going out to play for my teammates who are in this locker room and on this field, playing for the fans. That’s what it’s about, going out and giving everything I have and having fun doing it.”


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