Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may have been channeling his inner-Rocky Balboa this offseason.
The defending heavyweight champion of the world took the death of rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed personally, and decided to fight steroid-ridden Russian isolationist Ivan Drago for no money in the heart of the Soviet Union.
Roethlisberger has no such vendetta - or at least not one that's been reported (the lack of existence of the Soviet bloc may be part of the reason for that). But he did decide to use nature as his training partner after the end of last season.
Post Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo wrote a feature in Saturday's edition highlighting Roethlisberger's training regimen, which included kayaking, as a way to strengthen his shoulder and chest, two areas that have been injured over the last two seasons.
"For me, with my injury last year with my shoulder and chest area," he told Fittipaldo. "I wanted to get my arm strength up and get stronger. I did different things. Things that are not traditional, but the receivers and coaches say my velocity has gone up, so that's a good thing."
It wasn't pointed out whether he managed to scale the side of a medium-sized mountain with John Cafferty screaming about flaming hearts in passion-pitched 80s-style synthesizer melody, but thinking through the idea of kayaking is enough to feel arms and chest muscles getting stronger.
The results have been positive, according to Roethlisberger. His arm strength - which has been noticeably down at times since 2011, if not earlier - is returning.
Not that arm strength is everything, but judging by the lack of it, Roethlisberger has been forced to use more of his mental strength in recent years. The joining of both of those features could put Roethlisberger in a position, mentally and physically, to have a big season.
We saw it during the beginning of the 2012 season. When the rest of the team was falling apart or watching from the sideline, Roethlisberger carried the team, led by his other-worldly third down production. And these weren't 3rd-and-3 situations. A lack of a running game early in the year, and an insistence on continuing to try to run, led to 3rd-and-11 spots in which Roethlisberger found ways to convert.
An additional boost to the running game in 2013, plus the strength found from kayaking, could make Roethlisberger poised to have his best season yet.
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