PITTSBURGH -- A returning Ben Roethlisberger remains the biggest headline of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offseason.
How his return impacts the team? Will he return to his Hall of Fame route? Can a 38-year-old quarterback come back from reconstructive surgery in his throwing elbow and still lead a team?
All offseason we've heard nothing but 'yes'.
“Again, I think it’s unique to each and every player because each player’s anatomy is different, each player’s surgery different, each player's ability— mentally— to get through something is different," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this offseason at the NFL Combine. "So I think in all those regards we are very optimistic that this could be a better Ben Roethlisberger.”
But what do the players think?
During a conference call with local Steelers media, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was asked about getting to play on a team with an active Roethlisberger.
Fitzpatrick was traded to the Steelers in exchange for a 2020 first-round NFL Draft pick following Week 2 of the 2019 season. Roethlisberger left during the first half of Pittsburgh's Week 2 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks and did not return during the season.
"I expect him to be Ben Roethlisberger," Fitzpatrick said. "He's a great player, a big playmaker. But also I seen throughout last year, that just being around the team and not even on the field, that he's a great leader and great man. A dude that I like being around, I like hearing from. He's got a lot of experience and a lot of wisdom to share."
In 2019, Roethlisberger completed 452 passes for 5,129 yards (both career-highs) and 34 touchdowns to 16 interceptions (also a career-high).
According to head coach Mike Tomlin, Roethlisberger is expected to return to the team for their Week 1 opener against the New York Giants.
“As we sit here today, we are extremely confident in his readiness,” Tomlin said earlier this month. “We are enjoying the process that he’s going through right now. Obviously, it’s not without its angst. The guy is coming off a season-ending injury and surgery. But we like where we are. He’s throwing on a rehab schedule, and it’s going well, and we fully anticipate him being ready to go for that opener.”
So, is Fitzpatrick worried about Roethlisberger coming into Monday Night Football at MetLife Stadium and not being 100?
No. He's not.
"He's gonna keep being himself," Fitzpatrick said. "Even though he was injured, whatever it may be, he's gonna go out there and he's gonna compete, he's gonna challenge myself as a defensive player, and he's gonna go out there and make everybody else better. Like he's been doing for the last (16) seasons."