At 39 years old and a recipient of 18 seasons worth of bone-crushing hits, broken body parts and countless bumps and bruises, Ben Roethlisberger needs all the time he can get to recover from an NFL game.
Usually six days provides enough rest and recovery, practice and preparation before the next opportunity.
Three days? As Roethlisberger has mentioned a couple of times this week, he often doesn’t practice on a Thursday, let alone play in a game that night.
But for perhaps the final time in his NFL career, Roethlisberger will play on short rest Thursday when the Pittsburgh Steelers take their annual turn in the weeknight spotlight, facing the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Everyone has to do this throughout the year,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody really likes it except for the NFL and all the money they make. Players, it’s tough.”
For the Steelers, they take to the road to play an opponent they last faced in 2017, and they will do it just four days after they held on for a last-second 20-19 decision against the rival Baltimore Ravens.
“Usually, you expend a lot of energy in that game,” defensive captain Cameron Heyward said. “New challenges arise. You’ve got to get the bodies right and your mental (game) has to be up.”
That can be difficult when a player is still licking his wounds from the previous game. As a concession to his age, Roethlisberger doesn’t practice Wednesdays, and his work Thursdays recently has been limited.
Roethlisberger was listed as a full participant Tuesday when the Steelers conducted a light practice at the indoor facility at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. The players will have a walkthrough Wednesday before heading to Minnesota.
For Roethlisberger, the preparation is more physical than mental at this stage of his career.
“Just have as many people help you as you can,” he said. “Chiropractors, masseuses, training staff. Getting in the pools and just doing whatever you can to get yourself ready.”
It is the first time since 2018 that Roethlisberger will play in a Thursday game on short rest. Last year, the team’s Thanksgiving game against Baltimore was postponed multiple times. The delay led to the Steelers facing the Washington Football Team five days later. He missed the 2019 game because of his season-ending shoulder injury.
The Steelers are 7-6 when playing on three days of rest in Mike Tomlin’s 15 seasons. That includes a 2-5 away record, the latest road victory taking place on Thanksgiving night in 2016, when the Steelers won at Indianapolis.
Tomlin doesn’t have a predetermined formula on how to approach a short practice week.
“It just really depends on your present circumstance when you get to these games,” Tomlin said. “It’s the overall health of your team, where it is occurring in the journey. There are a lot of variables. … I look at the present circumstances and the makeup of this group. For instance, last year we had a very veteran group in a lot of ways. This year, we have a very young group in a lot of ways.”
One thing the …….