After a year away from the football field, the veteran quarterback, entering his 17th season, expects to feel some jitters when he finally plays in a game Monday night at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants.
“You always have a little bit of jitters and nerves for the first game, but the way I feel now is more than I’ve felt in a very long time,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “I’m sure it’s only going to intensify as the week goes on. And then Monday night, I’m sure I’m going to be shaking like a leaf.”
Roethlisberger, 38, hasn’t played since tearing three tendons in his right elbow during the first half of the Steelers’ Week 2 loss to Seattle last year. And with the absence of a preseason, when Roethlisberger takes the field Monday night, it will be exactly 365 days since he last threw a football in a game.
“It’s going to be one of those things where you get out there and hopefully it all comes back to me really quick, and there’s going to be rust, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But hopefully we can get it knocked off sooner than later. I think that’s what makes it fun.”
With one more year on his contract beyond this season, Roethlisberger isn’t thinking about the end of the road — yet.
“Guys always throw out how old they want to play ’til,” he said. “I don’t know. I honor my contract, and I know it’s got one more year on it. But I’m going to give this season everything I have, especially since I didn’t get to play last year. This season means a lot to me. I’m going to give everything I have and see what happens. But I don’t like to put a time frame on how long I want to play. There’s too many variables involved.”
Roethlisberger isn’t the only Steeler who acknowledged having nerves.
“There are nerves and jitters every time we walk out of the tunnels, at least for me, speaking for myself,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “Especially the first time you walk out in a season or the first time you walk out, particularly in a circumstance such as this with no preseason. I think I am really focusing my energies on using that angst or anxiety in a productive or appropriate way and working through it and finding comfort through work.”
Like Tomlin, Roethlisberger is also planning to channel his nerves into productive energy.
“If I wasn’t nervous and I didn’t have that anxiousness, then I think that you shouldn’t be out there, right?” he said. “There’s not a love for the game if you don’t have that, and I think since I have those nerves already, it just shows that I still love this game and I’m still passionate for it and I want to go out and win for my teammates and the fans and the city. I’m not sure how bad it’s going to be. We can talk after the game, but I’m sure it’s going to be pretty different.”