Maybe it wasn't just the ankle.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger spoke openly today about a partially torn rotator cuff that he says occurred during the Steelers' Week 9 loss vs. Baltimore, a game in which he threw for 330 yards and a big second-half touchdown pass to WR Mike Wallace.
Roethlisberger struggled the remainder of the season, and with him, did the rest of the offense. While he didn't reach the bottom depths of the league, his arm strength clearly looked less with each passing game.
The Steelers offense wilted down the stretch, scoring just 53 points in their last four games, including a 26-20 (OT) loss to Denver in the AFC Wild Card playoffs.
Roethlisberger, speaking to Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette, said the injury won't affect him this season, which is similar to what he said about an ankle injury he suffered in the Steelers' 20-3 loss at San Francisco in Week 15. He wasn't the same player for the team's remaining three games.
Playing through injuries is something Roethlisberger prides himself on, and more power to that mentality. All NFL players have to play with pain, certainly by the end of the season. But many of the hits he took weren't on sacks, and they often came as the result of him holding onto the ball waiting for a play to develop.
One of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's main jobs this season will be to change the big-play offense that fizzled along with Roethlisberger last season, and instill something in which the Steelers' franchise player can remain healthy through the end of the year, and not just the midway point.
Roethlisberger has been a fast starter the last few seasons, and in this offense, he has the opportunity to put up some of the best efficiency numbers of his outstanding career. And a new offensive line will help keep him upright along with provide a stronger running attack to take some of the big playmaking pressure off him.
Assuming he's ok with letting go of the ball, that is.