It has been more than 13 years since Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger first started working together. Prior to this week, it had been nearly a full year since the Steelers coach saw his future Hall of Fame QB throw in person.
Tomlin knows as well as anyone how resilient Big Ben is. But it was comforting nonetheless to observe the 38-year-old gunslinger performing on a practice field after losing a season to injury and an offseason to the pandemic.
Roethlisberger, Tomlin assured, can still rip it.
"I've watched him throw a couple times this week. He has the Ben-like velocity," Tomlin said during a Thursday appearance on Good Morning Football. "I'm still looking for the super tight spiral. There's still some ground to cover, but we still have time. I'm excited to see him doing what he does, stepping out of the phone booth, so to speak, with a cape on and being the guy he has been for us and facing the challenges that this season will present."
Big Ben, of course, has been the Man of Steel for even longer than Tomlin's been in Pittsburgh. He'd already won a Super Bowl and led Pittsburgh to a pristine 13-0 mark as a rookie before Tomlin arrived in 2007. The Steelers haven't had a losing record since, although the past 10 months have arguably been the toughest for the duo.
Roethlisberger suffered his first significant in-season injury last September, tearing three flexor tendons in his throwing elbow that cost him 14 games. Pittsburgh would proceed to miss the postseason for the second straight year. Fast forward a few months and Big Ben is not only zipping the ball but also in better shape, believing he weighs about what he did when Tomlin began coaching him as a 25-year-old.
His coach isn't surprised.
"In terms of mentality and intent, I have no question what we're going to get from Big Ben," Tomlin said. "Going on 14 years working with this guy, I've watched him stare adversity in the face. It brings out the best in him always. In terms of physically and how he's rebounding from this, It's a process he's going through. We're leaning on the medical personnel, but so far so good."