Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be the latest aging passer to attempt a comeback after sustaining a serious injury.
At 38-years-old and recovering from a serious elbow injury, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger already has the deck stacked against him heading into the 2020 season.
Despite his current circumstances, Roethlisberger doesn’t sound like he’s very concerned about the potential of not being able to be a solid NFL passer once again.
The Steelers quarterback recently spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and he was asked about his confidence level heading into a return to the football field next season.
"“I have no doubts I’m going to be able to come back and play well, none. I have complete confidence in that. I’m throwing without pain for the first time in years. Some games, I would have a little pain. Some games, I would have a lot of pain. To be able to throw without pain now? That feels nice. That’s a nice feeling. I know I’m not getting any younger, but I feel younger because I don’t have any pain.”"
It sounds like Roethlisberger’s recovery is progressing in the right direction and it’s leading him to believe he could help Pittsburgh earn a trip back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
He’s certainly not the first quarterback at the tail end of his career to attempt a comeback after a serious injury though.
After missing the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury, a 36-year-old Peyton Manning returned with a vengeance in 2012 with the Denver Broncos, throwing for 4,649 yards and 37 touchdowns. Then all Manning did during the next season as a 37-year-old was finish with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns.
In 2014 with the Arizona Cardinals, a 36-year-old Carson Palmer returned from a torn ACL he suffered during the previous season and he ended up throwing for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns while leading his team to 13 wins and an appearance in the NFC Championship.
Way back in 1996, Warren Moon missed eight games for the Minnesota Vikings due to a broken collarbone. Moon returned in 1997 at 41-years-old as a member of the Seattle Seahawks and he had a solid season that saw him throw for 3,678 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
So there have definitely been instances of older quarterbacks returning from serious injuries and delivering solid performances during the following season. But there are plenty of examples from the other side of the spectrum as well.
in 1978, 38-year-old Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton returned from a broken leg and proceeded to throw 32 interceptions in 16 games. Then in 2000, 37-year-old New York Jets signal-caller Vinny Testaverde came back from a serious Achilles injury and he ended up tossing a total of 25 interceptions.
It’s still hard to predict exactly how well Roethlisberger will be able to perform next season after missing all but two games in 2019. He thinks he’ll be fine and if the Steelers don’t use an early-round draft pick on a quarterback this year, the team likely feels confident in the chances of their veteran signal-caller returning to form as well.