By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — For those Pittsburgh Steelers fans wondering why Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have his knee surgery right after this past season ended, don’t despair. Roethlisberger said he got a good report from Dr. James Bradley, the club’s head orthopedic surgeon, and he would be ready for training camp.
Roethlisberger had his right knee wrapped, but didn’t appear to walk with a limp. He spoke with the media Tuesday prior to the Steelers’ first mini-camp practice.
“It feels great,” Roethlisberger said. “I just talked with Doc Bradley, and he was pleasantly surprised with the range of motion of where we’re at and the swelling. So, it feels great, and I’ve been off crutches for a couple days now. So, I’m moving around good, and I think I could play Sunday if I had to. It’s too early to tell (everything), but according to the doc the surgery went really well.
“My knee’s in great shape, and they took care of the little problem. It had been bothering me a little bit last year, and we just decided that now was a good time to take care of it. … People might say why not get it done earlier, but we were trying to manage it. I would come in here on a Tuesday, and it felt good in practice. Then, by Thursday, it was almost like a tire slowly losing air.
“It kind of hurt me on Thursday, so we figured it was time to get it done,” Roethlisberger added. “The doctors agreed and said: ‘Let’s do it now.’ … It was just general wear and tear. It’s my right leg, so it’s my plant leg. So, every time I drop back I put a lot of pressure on that leg. I’d bet a lot of quarterbacks’ right knees are probably a little beat up. (So), I’m glad we went in and got it done.”
Roethlisberger confirmed that it was the same knee that was injured and needed a similar surgery in 2005. He missed three games after that surgery, so he clearly should be ready for the first training camp practice July 27. He will attend the mini-camp workouts Wednesday and Thursday as well to led moral support to his teammates, but Roethlisberger believed he saw enough the past few weeks to get an idea about the offense.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m excited, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen of it so far. Granted, we’re in shorts and T-shirts, but I’m really pleased with the O-line, some of these young guys at wide receiver, with some of the veteran guys, and they’re stepping up and doing some good things. (So), we’ll see what happens when we get pads on.”
Haley was equally as confident, because he saw glimpses of success last year.
“I thought that during the first half of the year we protected the ball with the best in the league,” Haley said. “I thought we were one giveaway behind New England, which had been doing as well as anybody had, so that was a good thing. That translates directly to winning. During the second half, you can’t win when you turn the ball over. … I thought we were pretty efficient, even though we weren’t running the ball nearly as efficiently as we need to.
“We were converting third downs at a high level, so we were able to stay on the field, even though we weren’t running the football as well as we want to. Those were all good things, and we were scoring points in the red zone. Not always touchdowns, but we kicked the field goals. We just weren’t getting in there enough, and that comes back to not running the ball. So, going into this year, we have to protect the football more like we did during the first half.
“And we have to run the football, overall, much more efficiently,” Haley added. “We have to be able to run the football, which will get us into the red zone more often. And then, I think we’ll be a better red-zone team, and that will allow us to win a bunch of games. On the offensive line, we’re obviously going to be younger, but I think we’re more athletic. And that will give us more versatility. (And) that should make a difference in our running game.”
Even though the Steelers won’t have Mike Wallace this season, after four seasons utilizing a players among the fastest in the NFL, both Roethlisberger and Haley believed the club would still be able to have a deep passing game. Roethlisberger even believed it would improve since he expected his plant leg to be stronger than ever after the surgery.
“I think we’ve got fast guys, and I think some of the guys would be offended if you called them slow,” Haley said. “Mike, obviously, was a rare speed guy. But I view, A.B. (Antonio Brown), Emmanuel (Sanders) and potentially some of these young guys as being rare speed guys.
“If you look in the Hall of Fame, there aren’t too many 4.4 guys in there. … We’ve got plenty of speed, so not a lot’s going to change, from that standpoint, and we’re going to still use our players to their strengths and try to play to those the best that we can.”
The Steelers will hold a walk-through in the morning and then practice from around 2-4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon before ending the spring workouts with a short practice Thursday beginning about 11:30 a.m.