Elbow room: Roethlisberger confident in return from surgery

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2019 file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.  Roethlisberger is confident his surgically repaired right elbow will be fine in 2020. The two-time Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback missed most of 2019 after injuring the elbow in Week 2 against Seattle.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2019 file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. Roethlisberger is confident his surgically repaired right elbow will be fine in 2020. The two-time Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback missed most of 2019 after injuring the elbow in Week 2 against Seattle.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger is pretty sure there isn't a technical term for what doctors did to his shredded right elbow last fall.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is pretty sure about one thing though: no one who has ever played his position has ever recovered from it well enough to continue throwing a football for a living.

Yet the 38-year-old is confident he will be the first. Maybe it's because the pain that led to three flexor tendons rupturing late in the first half against Seattle last September is gone.

Maybe it's because he's leaner than he's been since his mid-20s. Maybe it's because he plays for a team with a defense that kept the Steelers in the playoff mix well into December without their longtime captain. It's likely a combination of all three.

Regardless, Roethlisberger believes he can be as good as ever entering his 17th season. After some informal throwing with his teammates during the spring when the COVID-19 pandemic turned organized team activities and minicamp into a “virtual” event, Roethlisberger spent Monday at Heinz Field doing it for real during the first extended work at training camp. The best part? The way he felt when he woke up Tuesday morning.

“I’ve had no setbacks,” he said. “It feels really good. I’m excited about that.”

Relieved too.

Roethlisberger admitted he'd been dealing what he described as minor elbow discomfort for a while heading into Week 2 against Seattle. In the waning moments of the second quarter, he flung the ball deep to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. He clutched his arm immediately after letting it fly. Though he finished out the drive, it was obvious something was wrong. Really wrong.