Quarterback doesn't offer excuses for his off season
It was not the motorcycle accident, nor the appendectomy, nor the concussion. Ben Roethlisberger yesterday took issue with the excuses his former offensive coordinator provided for him recently, but said nothing was to blame for his poor 2006 season other than his play.
"You know what? I might have still had the same year," if there had been no trauma, Roethlisberger said. "Who knows? I'm not going to look back and say, wow, this is what caused this and this is what caused that. There's no need for that. It's a bad year. It's going to happen. That's just the way it goes."
Former Steelers coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, said last month that, in retrospect, he thought Roethlisberger may have been brought back too soon after his traumas of last year and that it may have caused the quarterback to be gun-shy in the pocket.
Roethlisberger sharply disagreed.
"No, I don't agree with Whis. There were a lot of things I didn't agree with Whis about, and that's another one.
"Coach Cowher always came to me and asked me how I felt, and I was always 100 percent honest with him. I was always honest with the doctors. Everybody knows that Pittsburgh has some of the best doctors in the country -- look at my face for instance," he said, laughing. "We have an unbelievable medical staff. They cleared me and, if they gave me clearance, we never hushed anything.
"No, I don't think anything was rushed. I think I just didn't play well. I had a bad year. I'm sure Whis had a bad year once in his career."
Roethlisberger threw 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions last season, had a 75.4 passer rating and a 7-8 record in his third year as a starter. He was 27-4 as a starter in his first two seasons, counting playoffs, with a 98.3 overall passer rating and a Super Bowl victory under his belt.
He has been able to put last season into perspective, he said, with the help of two Hall of Fame quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania -- Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
"Playing some golf and spending some time with them recently, they laugh because they're, like, 'Isn't it amazing that you have one bad year and everyone is down on you?' " Roethlisberger said. "I said, 'Yeah, it's pretty funny.' They said, 'Listen, you're going to have more than one bad year. Don't let it bother you. You had two great ones [and] one bad one, you'll be fine.'
"It feels good when people like that tell you that it's going to be OK, that you're going to have more than one bad year."
Roethlisberger attributes it more to his mental approach.
"I think that a lot of times, I got caught being a little too confident and knowing the offense too well and trying to force things a little too much. I wouldn't change a thing. I learned from it, it's a learning experience, and you know what, it's going to make me better."
Roethlisberger finds himself at another crossroads in his young career with a new head coach in Mike Tomlin, new offensive coordinator in Bruce Arians and new quarterbacks coach in Ken Anderson. He also has been presented with a new playbook that Arians streamlined and puts more on the quarterback's shoulders.
"It's going to be tough. It's going to take a lot of learning. That's why I've been going in and talking to B.A. and coach Anderson," Roethlisberger said as he completed his second day of workouts with his team.
Among the changes: The quarterback and not the center or guards will call the pass protections. Roethlisberger often could not hear his linemen and thus did not know what the protections were.
"[They're] letting me call a lot more of the stuff at the line," Roethlisberger said. "This year, it's going to be mostly just me. I'm going to tell them if I want them to move. I'm telling them to move, otherwise they don't do anything. It should be easier for us, for me, because I know what's going on and where they'll be blocking and who they're not blocking."
Roethlisberger did his homework on Anderson, too. He talked to Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich about his former quarterbacks coach. He said he will miss his old quarterbacks coach, Mark Whipple, but understands the business of the NFL. He also said Tomlin has made a good impression.
"He's a lot of good things you want in a coach -- he has the energy, he has the excitement, he's a young guy," Roethlisberger said. "You can tell he has a fire, he has the players fired -- the enthusiasm, the energy -- and I think he's going to be a good coach. He has the passion."