Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette has a nice article based on an interview he did with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. In it, he quotes Roethlisberger as saying he's already begun working out in preparation for the 2012 season, mostly due to the fact that, on the edge of his 30th birthday, his body "doesn't recover the way it used to."
Most notably, though, he mentioned how injuries to his right shoulder, thumb and ankle held him back during the season.
The ankle and thumb injuries were widely reported, but the shoulder injury hadn't been discussed much. It could be the reason why the Steelers' passing numbers tanked down the stretch.
I watched my DVD of the Steelers at Colts AFC Divisional playoff game from January, 2006, recently. I was amazed at Roethlisberger, not just his physique (he looked like a Marine; lean, athletic), but with the strength of his arm. In his second year, he was making throws I didn't see him make all season.
It raised speculation in my mind as to his health, and even the length of time his shoulder has been injured.
It's comforting to see he's dedicating himself to a consistent off-season workout program, because, frankly, he took a step back this season in terms of the level of his overall play. Conditioning may not prevent injuries to his thumb and ankle, but the level of strength and flexibility his body has helps prevent other ailments and helps speed recovery.
Bouchette noted Roethlisberger said he wanted to show up in camp in better shape than he ever has. By the end of this season, it wasn't just the ample amount of body armor he wears that made Big Ben look like Really Big Ben.
Not to lecture on the merits of one's health, but it shouldn't end with the off-season. It's not a "diet," it's a lifestyle. The older Roethlisberger gets, the more he'll start to see he must maintain that commitment to what he's eating and the amount of strength training he's doing in-season. This is particularly important for a quarterback who lives off his quickness and strength.
Perhaps the Giants' second Super Bowl championship in five years - the same amount of titles Roethlisberger won in the same amount of years - is motivating him. After all, no one's suggesting Eli Manning needs to shed a few pounds.
Roethlisberger will take hits - dominant offensive line or not. Finding uber-talented pass rushers has been a priority of nearly every team in the league for several years now. The way he can help counter that is to keep himself in top shape after, during and before the season.
It's good to see he's taking steps to do that, because a healthy and fit Roethlisberger is as good as any in the league.