There were a few shaky throws, some rust and a makeshift arm wrap.
But by the end of the first half, Ben Roethlisberger started making the plays that have made the Steelers a playoff constant for the past 16 years.
“I am just so excited, I am just thankful,” Roethlisberger told ESPN’s Maria Taylor after the Steelers’ 26-16 victory over the Giants on Monday night. “I told the guys in the locker room before the game that I’m back because of them. I don’t need to accomplish anything personally anymore. It’s about being with a defense that I think is as good as any I have ever played with, skill guys that are young and fun to play with and then, of course my line, who I love to death and they love me.
“They are the reason I came back to play.”
It was the 38-year-old Roethlisberger’s first game in nearly a year after having season-ending elbow surgery in Week 2 of last season. Last season, with Devlin “Duck” Hodges and Mason Rudolph replacing Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh stumbled to an 8-8 campaign.
Roethlisberger put the Steelers ahead for the first time with a 78-yard drive right before halftime in which he completed 6-of-8 pass attempts.
“Us being out there right before half, having two minutes to go down, put points on the board, it was like, ‘OK, that is the Ben we know,’” said star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught two of Roethlisberger’s three touchdowns.
“Being able to go down and have those points on the board [on that] drive — that is what we do.”
Roethlisberger was seen on the sideline with a jacket wrapped around his repaired arm. But the veteran is confident that he left the game healthy, even though he did grab his knee after an 11-yard run in the second quarter.
“I probably just grabbed my knee because I was moving so fast, but I feel great right now,” said Roethlisberger, who takes on the Broncos next week.
“Obviously, adrenaline still pumping and we won the game. I’m going to be sore tomorrow and might have some bumps and bruises, but in terms of elbow and everything else I feel really good right now.”