The Steelers are confident that Ben Roethlisberger will make a full return from elbow surgery in 2020, as he avoided any ligament or tendon damage when injured in Week 2, and his recovery plan includes beginning throwing this spring, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Had Roethlisberger required a different procedure to repair or replace ligaments in the elbow, the timeframe would have been significantly longer. However, this procedure is to repair a muscle tear, and the timetable puts him easily on pace for the start of camp, let alone Week 1, the source said. Roethlisberger grabbed his elbow in the first half of Sunday's loss to Seattle, left the game quickly and did not return.
Upon learning of the need for season-ending surgery, the potential Hall of Fame quarterback immediately told coaches and management that he was adamant about playing next season and, later last week, released a statement affirming his desire to continue playing. Roethlisberger, who will be 38 next season, has dabbled with retirement talk in the past, but Steelers brass is convinced he wants to play on. He signed a contract extension prior to this season that ties him to the Steelers through the 2021 season. It will pay him $21 million in 2020 (with $16 million of it already guaranteed for injury) and would be worth $19 million in total in 2021 (with $14 million guaranteed for injury).
Roethlisberger reported to camp in great shape and was dead set on showing that this offense could still be elite, despite the departures of Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown and Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell in recent years. However, he started slowly and had difficulty connecting with his new receivers through the first six quarters of the season, going 20 for 40 for just 204 yards and an interception when targeting a receiver, with almost all of that throwing to incumbent JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The Steelers are confident in youngster Mason Rudolph's ability to run the offense and play winning football, though expectations for the overall production this unit is accustomed to churning out have certainly been tempered some internally, I'm told. Rudolph was selected in the third round in 2018 with an eye toward grooming him to replace Roethlisberger one day, but certainly not with Week 3 of the 2019 season in mind.