Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp 1: All About Ben

Training camp has begun. Wow. I don’t know about you all, but somehow the time between The Loss Which Shall Not Be Named (except by basically everyone writing about the Steelers) and training camp has seemed to go by in a flash. I suppose it is the Toilet Roll Effect.* So it’s time to start the intense Steelers talk, and for once let’s begin at the top, because with all due respect to Landry Jones and Mason Rudolph, it’s probable that as Ben goes, so go the Steelers.

In this morning’s Trib was an article about Ben, and the following caught my eye:

“I am 36, but I think I’m playing better than I ever have played,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t feel like I’ve plateaued yet. I still feel like my arrow is pointing up.”

Roethlisberger hasn’t set a definitive end date for his career and said his future will depend on his health. To that end, he worked with a personal trainer in the offseason while cutting carbs and sugars from his diet.

“I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. “I’m definitely lighter than I’ve been in the past 7-8 years. I feel great, my joints feel great.”

Roethlisberger smiled and politely deferred when asked about his weight.

“I don’t know how many years I have left, but I’m going to dedicate those last couple years to doing anything I can do, anything possible to give this team the best ‘me’ I can give them. I think it’s just smart.”

Ben’s “polite deferral” about his weight was actually this—”That’s like asking a woman her age.” Fair enough. I’ve always thought how weird it must be for players to have their weight discussed on national TV. When a reporter noted his weight was listed as 241 on the team roster, he smiled and commented “Bert [Lauten] and the guys do a great job with the media guide.”

But to return to the main point, his change in diet, this interests me a good deal, for more than one reason.

It isn’t that I feel Ben doesn’t take his conditioning seriously in the off-season in general. I’ve been going to Training Camp for at least eight years, maybe nine, and I pretty much always comment on how thin Ben looks (especially compared to how he ended the previous season, particularly in the injury-plagued years.)

But this sounds like he’s taking it to another level. Cutting carbs and sugar from your diet is no joke, as any of us carb addicts can testify. And it is just possible that there are larger benefits to this than just the accompanying weight loss.

I “do keto,” and I would love to tell you that I now struggle to keep weight on. But I can’t honestly tell you that. After an initial drop of about 10 pounds, I’ve been sitting at more or less the same weight for nearly a year. So why don’t I give it up and look for the next “miracle diet?” Because the benefits go well beyond weight loss. I don’t have to pry myself out of bed in the morning because my joints are stiff. I think (although those around me might disagree : ) that I have more mental clarity. And I would venture to say that those two things are pretty important to a quarterback.

So if Ben sticks to this I’m going to have a heightened sense of interest (which is really saying something) in how well he plays this year. After all, we’re all looking for confirmation of our cherished beliefs.

“But,” you may be saying, “what about carb-loading for energy for a game?” Well, I’m glad you asked that question. I watched a documentary made about an Australian guy who was on a very low-carb regime, and decided to see whether you could sustain a great deal of energy output without carb-loading. So he bicycled from Queensland to Sydney, I think it was—something on the order of 2500 km. He did it handily, too. A couple of times he ended up riding with someone on a standard diet, and he found himself astonished at how often they would need to stop to eat. He only ate at normal mealtimes. His conclusion was that fat is a better fuel than glucose.

“But wait,” you may also be saying. “Football isn’t an endurance sport, exactly. It’s more about short bursts of tremendous energy output.” I’m guessing his personal trainer is on it, and may or may not be modifying game-day meals and/or snacks. I would love to know.

But there’s no doubt that a slimmer, more mobile, and mentally sharper Roethlisberger would be a force to be reckoned with. I’m really hoping we will find out just how great a force that is, because Roethlisberger at his best last season was a sight to behold.

So what does his coach think? From the same article:

Roethlisberger’s slimmer physique wasn’t lost on coach Mike Tomlin.

“We always say physical conditioning precedes anything else,” Tomlin said. “When a guy shows up in great shape, that often times is the springboard for big-time play.”

From MT’s lips to God’s ear, as Homer might say.

UPDATE: Dale Lolley says that for the first time in his memory Ben wasn’t wearing any sort of a brace. That’s impressive…

And speaking of Training Camp, there’s a move afoot to meet up. Homer and Ivan are looking at dates which will hopefully include the Friday Night Lights practice. If any of you are interested and able to join us, we would love to see you. I’ll keep you updated on the plans.

*I taught harpsichord lessons for several years to a woman who is, I think, about my age or a few years older. (We women don’t ask those kinds of questions if the answer is not volunteered—even Ben knows that.) We were discussing one day how quickly the past year had flown by, and she said “It’s like toilet paper. The closer you get to the end of the roll, the quicker it disappears.” Words to live by.

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