In recent weeks and months Pittsburgh Steelers fans have received encouraging reports about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s recovery from last year’s elbow surgery. It’s not just that his arm looks ‘way better’ than it did last year, as proclaimed second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson. His teammates have also reported what they view as a stunning change in Roethlisberger’s demeanor, noting that he not only looks happier, he’s more motivated and driven to win than he has been in many years. Taken together, it’s why Steelers tight end Vance McDonald pronounced Big Ben ‘all the way back’ earlier this week.
But some fans have taken the reports with a grain of salt, noting that all of the insights were coming from people inside the organization. It’s only in the past few days that people outside the organization have had a chance to watch Roethlisberger in action. And what they have to say makes it seem like coaches and teammates have actually understated how well Roethlisberger is doing.
Ben Roethlisberger’s Arm ‘More Than Just Fine’
Take Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, who said earlier this week that Roethlisberger’s motion looks ‘different’ since the surgery, vaguely reminiscent of that of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers. But any change in his motion hasn’t hurt his accuracy; if anything he looks more accurate than he has in a long time, says Kaboly, who ought to know. He’s been watching Roethlisberger practice for 17 years.
In his most recent ‘10 Observations’ column, Kaboly described what he saw during the individual and team portions of Steelers practice on Wednesday as a “throwing clinic,” leading him to conclude that “the franchise quarterback’s arm is more than just fine.”
“Wherever Roethlisberger wanted to throw the ball Wednesday, he threw it. It was like he was playing a game of darts and hit the middle of the bull’s-eye every time. He was that accurate,” Kaboly elaborated.
“During the open portion of practice … Roethlisberger was perfect,” continued Kaboly. “He hit JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and [Ryan] Switzer between the numbers on dig routes; he threw passes into the flat with precision, letting the receivers catch and run in stride; and he was spot on with all of his timing throws to the sideline. We aren’t talking about catchable balls here. We are talking about pinpoint-accurate throws. Every time.
During the team portion of practice it was more of the same.
“Roethlisberger dropped dimes to Zach Gentry and to Eric Ebron,” Kaboly added. “He fired a two-minute-drill touchdown to Switzer in the back of the end zone on the move and connected with Chase Claypool with a teardrop pass on the right sideline for a long gain.”
Mason Rudolph’s Accuracy Issues
In contrast to Roethlisberger, Kaboly reports that backup quarterback Mason Rudolph looked lousy during Wednesday’s practice, this after looking “decent” during the first two padded practices of camp.
“He was high, low and all over the place during individual drills, and it got worse in the team period,” said Kaboly.
“Rudolph didn’t complete a pass in his four reps in the hurry-up drill after Roethlisberger completed all of his. They went back to the two-minute drill right after that, and it was just as bad. Rudolph’s passes should have been intercepted a few times, but the defense dropped the ball or it was knocked away by the receiver.
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