Roethlisberger won't blame injuries for bad season

Updated: March 21, 2007, 12:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

His former offensive coordinator gave him an out for his subpar performance in 2006, but Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won't take it.

"Who knows? I'm not going to look back and say, wow, this is what caused this and this is what caused that. There's no need for that. It's a bad year. It's going to happen. That's just the way it goes."
-- Ben Roethlisberger in Post-Gazette interview
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger refused to blame his motorcycle accident, his emergency appendectomy or a concussion he sustained for a 2006 season in which his performance and statistics fell off from his first two years in the NFL.

"You know what? I might have still had the same year," he told the newspaper. "Who knows? I'm not going to look back and say, wow, this is what caused this and this is what caused that. There's no need for that. It's a bad year. It's going to happen. That's just the way it goes."

Last month, Big Ben's former offensive coordinator and new Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said in hindsight, Roethlisberger may have been brought back too soon after his accident and appendectomy -- and that may have made him tentative in the pocket.

Roethlisberger disagreed.

"Coach Cowher always came to me and asked me how I felt, and I was always 100 percent honest with him. I was always honest with the doctors. Everybody knows that Pittsburgh has some of the best doctors in the country -- look at my face for instance," he told the Post-Gazette, referring to the injuries he sustained in the motorcycle accident. "We have an unbelievable medical staff. They cleared me and, if they gave me clearance, we never hushed anything."

"No, I don't think anything was rushed. I think I just didn't play well. I had a bad year. I'm sure [Whisenhunt] had a bad year once in his career," Roethlisberger told the newspaper.

"I think that a lot of times, I got caught being a little too confident and knowing the offense too well and trying to force things a little too much," he told the Post-Gazette. "I wouldn't change a thing. I learned from it, it's a learning experience, and you know what, it's going to make me better."

Roethlisberger threw 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions last season and went 7-8 as a starter. The previous two seasons, he was 27-4 as a starter, threw 34 TDs against 20 interceptions and led the Steelers to a Super Bowl title.

Roethlisberger also told the newspaper he was able to put last season in perspective with the help of Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

"Playing some golf and spending some time with them recently, they laugh because they're, like, 'Isn't it amazing that you have one bad year and everyone is down on you?'" Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazette. "I said, 'Yeah, it's pretty funny.' They said, 'Listen, you're going to have more than one bad year. Don't let it bother you. You had two great ones [and] one bad one, you'll be fine.'

"It feels good when people like that tell you that it's going to be OK, that you're going to have more than one bad year," he told the newspaper.

This season, Roethlisberger finds himself with a new head coach in Mike Tomlin and a new offensive staff in coordinator Bruce Arians and QB coach Ken Anderson. The playbook has been streamlined, but Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazette he will have more responsibility, including calling pass protections at the line of scrimmage. Previously, the center and guards called the Steelers' protections.

"[They're] letting me call a lot more of the stuff at the line," Roethlisberger told the newspaper. "It should be easier for us, for me, because I know what's going on and where they'll be blocking and who they're not blocking."

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