PITTSBURGH (June 12, 2007) -- Ben Roethlisberger didn't have any problem recalling the significance of June 12. It's been circled on his calendar for nearly a year.
So, while the Steelers were holding a voluntary team workout at Heinz Field -- spending a day away from their practice complex -- their quarterback was remembering where he was a year ago to the day.
That day he crashed his motorcycle into the side of a car that failed to yield the right of way at a busy Pittsburgh intersection, causing a scary accident in which the helmet-less Roethlisberger lost considerable blood -- and, with it, nearly was killed.
"This is the day last year that, uh, I almost lost my life. ... I had it marked on the calendar," Roethlisberger said as the Steelers wound down their offseason drills. "I marked it down today on the calendar as one year and then tomorrow I had, 'Hopefully, no more talking about it.' "
Finally, he hopes, the talk and the memories are fading about a much-debated accident that occurred only four months after he led the Steelers to their first Super Bowl title in 26 years. Many Steelers fans were upset that Roethlisberger, arguably the most valuable player during the Super Bowl run, carelessly exposed himself to injury by not wearing a helmet.
"It's over with, it's done with, and, hopefully, now that it's a year over with, people will stop talking about it," he said.
As a result of the crash, Roethlisberger insists he no longer rides motorcycles -- he has not been photographed doing so since that day -- and limits himself to the occasional 10-speed bicycle ride.
The 25-year-old Roethlisberger was asked to do public service ads advocating the use of a helmet while riding a motorcycle in Pennsylvania, but declined to do so.
"I think it's every person's decision, whatever they want to do," he said.
Roethlisberger needed seven hours of surgery to repair his facial injuries. He also had a concussion and some internal injuries. He could not work out in the weeks leading to training camp but, surprisingly, never missed a day of camp because of the crash. Instead, an appendicitis attack caused him to miss the Sept. 7 opener against Miami.
When he returned, Roethlisberger was much more mistake prone and looked restless in the pocket all season. Former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, now the Arizona Cardinals coach, believes the accident and its aftermath might have negatively affected Roethlisberger's play.
"Looking back, I'm sure it did," Whisenhunt said. "Maybe it took a little longer for him to get over that than we thought. You could tell early in the season, he just wasn't as comfortable as he was before."
The quarterback's statistics were much worse a season ago than in his first two seasons, and the Steelers went from winning the Super Bowl to missing the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Roethlisberger finished with 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions, compared to 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions the season before. His passer rating dropped from 98.6 in 2005, third best among NFL starting quarterbacks, to 75.4 -- putting him 29th among QBs with 100 or more attempts.
However, Roethlisberger disputes Whisenhunt's notion and is convinced that bad throwing, not bad injuries, were to blame for his falloff in production.
"A lot of good things and some bad things (happened since last year), but I'm blessed, I truly am, to be out here," Roethlisberger said. "It's a beautiful day to be on this football field with my teammates."
The Associated Press News Service
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