Early last week, after the Steelers lost to the Buffalo Bills, Ben Roethlisberger insisted the multiple reports claiming he was dealing with some sort of knee injury that had the Steelers organization greatly concerned were nothing more than rumors and hearsay. Fake news, if you will.
Who am I to doubt the man? Who are any of us for that matter? Ben Roethlisberger is the greatest quarterback in Pittsburgh Steelers history, and deserves the benefit of the doubt. What reason could he possibly have to lie about the subject? If anything, dealing with a nagging injury would help explain what at the moment appears to be a dead throwing arm. At the least, a slightly diminished throwing arm compared to it's earlier season prowess, and at least offer a plausible excuse for the Steelers suddenly inept offense. Ben's stunningly bad performance on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals confirmed my suspicions.
Roethlisberger hasn't been the same quarterback since being forced from the Dallas Cowboys game after being hit around the knees moments before halftime. Thankfully, he was able to make a triumphant return in the second half, and he hasn't been forced to miss any game action due to injury, but the rumors persist he is dealing with some form of lower body discomfort. Having watched his throwing motion and arm mechanics for over seventeen years now; plus his facial expressions and body language, I feel with almost certainty that at least part of the rumors are true and some of the whispers accurate.
Ben's surgically repaired right arm is by no means shot, but it is fatigued. Some in the know refer to the condition as dead arm. It can be caused by repetitive actions, leading to an overworked extremity desperately in need of rest. This happens quite frequently with pitchers in baseball; who after being granted some well deserved time off, rediscover the three or four mph they had lost from their fastball.
However, overuse is not the only culprit capable of causing dead arm. Poor throwing mechanics are the guilty party just as often, particularly when a lower body injury or discomfort hinders or restricts the athlete's ability to fully utilize said lower body. That is exactly what I believe is going on with Ben Roethlisberger ever since the Cowboys game. He has been dealing with discomfort in his plant leg, restricting his ability to create his usual leg drive, causing him to have to rely too greatly on his strong right throwing arm to generate torque. This has resulted in a fatigued (dead) arm.
Go back and watch film from seasons prior if you aren't convinced. Just go back and watch film from some earlier games this season. The Steelers dismantling of the Bengals in their first matchup is a prime example. Watch as Ben steps fully into his throws, powering the ball through some strong crosswinds. The kind of throws only a strong armed quarterback can make with any accuracy and consistency. Bengals rookie standout quarterback Joe Burrow struggled to do the same in the elements that day.
Now watch Ben's performance against the Bengals on Monday night, in far better conditions to throw the football. Watch how he seems hesitant to step into his throws, instead choosing to throw the ball off his back leg rather than utilizing his proper follow through that transfers his weight and torque onto his lead leg. It is almost impossible to get on top of a throw without proper follow through and weight transfer. The result is almost always an inaccurate toss, usually sailing high above the intended target.
After watching Ben struggle with his accuracy and velocity against the Bengals, and after being reminded of the importance of the lower body in any athlete's throwing motion, I would be willing to bet more than a few Steelers fanatics will have seen the light. Ben hasn't suddenly forgotten how, or lost the ability to throw the football over the past couple of weeks. He didn't lose a battle with Father Time late one night, as some have suggested.
Roethlisberger and his strong right arm, more than likely, could use a little rest, and his sore left knee also. If the Steelers would have won on Monday night they would have clinched the division and had the opportunity to maybe rest their 38 year old quarterback. Alas, in this season of discontent and protocols for the Steelers, it was not meant to be.