Ben Roethlisberger Opens Up on Steelers Receiving Core, JuJu's Leadership

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger is continuing to work through his rehab while social distancing with his family outside of Pittsburgh. The quarterback continues to show all positive signs in his progression, and says he's excited about the group around him. 

In an interview on WDVE Morning Show, Roethlisberger admitted he's still throwing the football and training. Quarantined in his house with his wife, Ashley, and their three kids, his biggest concerns are more focused towards keeping control of the household instead of suffering a setback with his elbow. 

"I don't think ... there's no setbacks," Roethlisberger said. "I'm doing everything that I would be doing right now. There's nothing different I would be doing if there was not this virus out there. So I'm still throwing three days a week and working out five days a week. I'm doing all that stuff."

He did mention on obstacle he's learning to overcome. 

"The only part that is going to potentially be a hindrance, if you will, is, like, getting out there and getting, kind of, live reps," he said. "Obviously not getting hit, but the OTA minicamps, the throwing to receivers on the move — a defender's on him, so you kinda have to fit it into a tight window. Some of those kind of things are the things that I'm going to miss. But also I've been doing this for a long time, so hopefully I can just rely on that when it comes time."

Still, Roethlisberger is working out at his home with his trainer and Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer. Don't worry, Ben mentioned that they're keeping a safe distance during workouts and are throwing from a distance when training. 

For the rest of the receivers, Roethlisberger wants to get back on the field with everyone, checking in on his teammates from time to time during this social distancing period. 

"I'm excited, obviously, to get back out there," he said. "I think the guys are (too). I talk to quite a few of them and check in with them from time to time. I think that we got to see some growth from guys."

Roethlisberger proceeded to talk about how impressive the Steelers wideouts were in 2019 while working with a number of unfortanate factors. The quarterback left in Week 2 and was placed on injured reserve before undergoing reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow. 

Still, he didn't see the flaws many of the fans did last season. Instead, he pointed out the promise they showed while playing with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. 

"I thought Diontae really showed what he's capable of doing," Roethlisberger started off. 

"I thought James Washington really took some big steps in terms of his conditioning," he continued. "You kind of are able to see some of the small things when you're on the sideline that you wouldn't normally see when you're in the huddle or on the field. I saw James Washington on numerous occasions, multiple times a game, run deep routes — obviously full-speed, looking for the ball — doesn't get it, and he is like sprinting back to the huddle and runs another route. He spent last season really putting his conditioning above, I think, pretty much everything else. And I think it showed last year, and I think he's going to continue to do that and he's going to continue to grow and get better."

As for JuJu Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger was thrilled to see the leadership he presented on the sidelines. Being forced into a veteran role only three years into the league, his quarterback saw what he was doing without the ball in his hands.

"I think one of the most impressive things which I saw on the sideline and had communication with him was JuJu," Roethlisberger said. "I think you saw a guy that wasn't as productive as he wanted to be and as he was expected to be, but he was still able to go out there and be a leader for guys. Guys in that receivers room, guys were still looking up to him, still talking to him. He was out there giving it everything he had. It's not easy for guys to do, but he took a selfless mentality and attitude into last season, and I think it showed for guys like me that could really see it."

Roethlisberger was also excited about the addition of Eric Ebron. The Steelers signed the 26-year-old tight end to a two-year, $12 million contract during the opening week of free agency. 

"I'm excited for what he could potentially bring to us opposite Vance and kind of stretch the middle of the field," Roethlisberger said. "I'd like to do some stuff with him on the outside and maybe get some matchup opportunities that are favorable to us, so I can't wait to get to work with him."

For now, Roethlisberger is continuing to train and hunker down with his family during Pittsburgh's quarantine. And while he's focusing on football and returning to the Steelers for 2020, he's facing an even bigger challenge at home. 

"You know, it's crazy because ... We kind of live out in the country a little bit," Roethlisberger said on quarantining. "Out here, you don't really notice much difference, right? Other than the kids are always here. We love the kids and stuff, but it's definitely [brought] a newfound respect for teachers. It's not easy doing, literally trying to put together the curriculum and all this stuff that we have to do. You have to team up, right? We tap out every once in a while. Like, mom's like, 'I need to tap out,' or I'll be like, 'Hey, I need to tap out, give me 30, 45 minutes to kind of just unwind."