Ben Roethlisberger could be even better on return, Steelers GM says

INDIANAPOLIS -- The hype machine around Ben Roethlisberger's return isn't slowing down any time soon.

If anything, it picked up speed at the NFL combine when Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert spoke with the media Tuesday morning and told reporters there was a chance the 37-year-old quarterback could be even better post-elbow surgery.

"The thing that's exciting about it is we might have a better Ben Roethlisberger coming out of this surgery," Colbert said. "He sat for a year, didn't have wear and tear on his body for a year. Sure, he had a significant surgery, but we're optimistic he might be better."

Colbert said he believes Roethlisberger could return as an even stronger player after the September surgery because he got to rest his body for the majority of the regular season.

"There's a certain amount of rust that builds up, so you can look at it that way as well, but physically, he didn't play a season of NFL football," Colbert said. "Physically, he should be better. The arm, who knows? His arm might be stronger coming out of this surgery. Again, you never know the extent of an injury when it happens. When it happens, it happens. But how long was it bothering him without him even knowing it? So right now, we know where it is and we are optimistic that he might be better."

Colbert also isn't worried about Roethlisberger's physical shape after a season on the sideline. Though he's added weight to his large frame in the time away from the field, Roethlisberger should be able to resume conditioning without a problem. The biggest issue, Colbert said, will be readjusting to the game speed.

"His physical shape is fine," Colbert said. "In any offseason, we don't see our players all the time. Ninety percent of them aren't in the building. So we don't know where they are. We'll see where they are when they come back into the later phase of the offseason program. But I never worry about a player's physical appearance in the offseason."

Roethlisberger had an encouraging doctor's appointment in Los Angeles to evaluate his elbow. Shortly after, the Steelers' Twitter account posted a video of Roethlisberger throwing a football.

The quarterback told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he got to bypass throwing a tennis ball for a month to go straight to throwing a football. He said he should get total medical clearance in 2 1/2 to 3 months.

Colbert told reporters the most important thing about Roethlisberger's rehab is avoiding being too aggressive.

"I think with a guy like Ben," Colbert said, "you have to be careful to hold him back a little bit if he maybe progresses a little bit too aggressively because we have to make sure that he's there for September, or whenever our first game is.

"Everybody understands it's game days that are most important, but of course participating in minicamps, OTAs, whatever he can, will be part of his ability to have a great season. But again, we're really thinking, I'm not worried about the surgery because it might be a better result."