Roethlisberger getting ready for prime time

Believes he is entering the peak years of his NFL career, so he has started offseason workouts earlier

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Ben Roethlisberger already has adjusted his game, and it has nothing to do with old or new coordinators, old or new offenses, things Art Rooney did or did not say.

It has plenty to do with his 30th birthday March 2.

"That's why I'm working out already," Roethlisberger said.

He began training at the Steelers facility on the South Side last week, days after he returned from an extended Pro Bowl stay in Hawaii. He talked to coach Mike Tomlin about where he is in his career and about the future.

"When I talked to Mike, I said I don't know how much longer I have to play, no one does; it could be two years, three years, it could be eight years. Who knows?" Roethlisberger said during an extensive interview Thursday.

"I'm hoping that I'm just starting in my prime. I've already been working out with [Garrett Giemont], our strength coach, already. I've never worked out this early. It's not like high-intensity, out killing myself, but I'm working out, I want to come to camp lighter than I've ever come, in better shape, because as you get to a certain point, a certain age in this football thing, your body doesn't recover like it used to."

Roethlisberger sustained a number of injuries in 2011, including those to his foot and right shoulder as well as a broken right thumb and high left ankle sprain. He said his ankle feels fine, but he is working on healing his right shoulder, which needs to be strengthened because of the injury.

"I'm just waiting on my shoulder, it's the only thing left to get healed up," Roethlisbeger said. "That's the last thing."

But it was his ankle sprain that may have cost the Steelers most dearly. Roethlisberger played in the next game 11 days after the injury occurred against Cleveland Dec. 8, and the Steelers lost at San Francisco, 20-3. That cost them the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC.

Tomlin did not use him against St. Louis Dec. 24, but Roethlisberger played in the finale at Cleveland. The Steelers won both games.

Against San Francisco, he threw for 330 yards but was intercepted three times and had his lowest passer rating of the season (52.3). He admitted the ankle hindered his play.

"I really felt there were a lot of plays I could have made had I been healthier. That was a little frustrating for me because I felt I could have done more to help the team."

Despite his various injuries along with those of many teammates, Roethlisberger threw for 4,077 yards, second most in his career. His 90.1 passer rating marked the sixth time in his eight seasons he has been in the 90s or higher.

"Last year, I felt really good about the year, even though we had our downfalls with injuries and stuff, but I feel like I'm coming into the prime of my career, what I hope will be my best years. So I want to make sure I'm ready to go. That's another reason I hope our offense doesn't change because I feel like I'm just ready to hit it full stride and go with this.

"If it does stay the same or if we need to tweak little things, I've already talked to the receivers; we're going to get together this offseason and do some stuff -- whether it's new stuff or old stuff, because we felt we were this close."

Watching 2004 draft classmate Eli Manning quarterback the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory in the past five seasons inspired him even more, Roethlisberger said.

"Now that Eli has tied me with his second, I have to try to get back up on him. So I have a little extra motivation."

For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at . Ed Bouchette: and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published February 15, 2012 5:00 AM


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