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Ben Roethlisberger missed the majority of last season after injuring his right elbow two games into the year. The Steelers great had major elbow surgery in September and was placed on injured reserve. It was the first time in Roethlisberger’s 16-year career that he missed more than five starts in a season.

The 38-year-old quarterback started throwing again in late February. Videos of the bearded Roethlisberger started to surface online, but some fans were more interested in his weight than his return to throwing a football.

Fans are wondering if Ben Roethlisberger is out of shape

The speculation of Roethlisberger gaining weight over the offseason started in mid-February. Roethlisberger sat courtside at a West Virginia basketball game, and he even posed with the Mountaineer mascot. With his new fully grown beard, Roethlisberger looked like he could take the mascot’s job and no one would even notice.

The sheer thickness of his beard took up so much space that it led fans to believe he gained a ton of weight while sitting out for months. The beard was so full that it looked as if it added 10 pounds itself. A clean-shaven Roethlisberger wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows in the first place.

The optical illusion of sorts sent some Steelers fan in a tizzy. Many believed Roethlisberger let himself go after surgery and wasn’t staying in shape, but that was far from the truth. Roethlisberger actually said recently that he has been working out more this offseason than ever before.

Roethlisberger assures Steelers nation he is not overweight

Roethlisberger recently talked to Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and squashed the rumors of him being overweight.

“I’ve heard people say I’m fat, and that just blows my mind,” Roethlisberger told Cook. “I’m lighter and in better shape than I was in either of the past two years. I haven’t stopped working out. I normally don’t work out in the offseason, but I’ve been doing everything five days a week with my trainer.”

Roethlisberger went on to say his beard might add five pounds, but he stressed that he’s not even close to overweight. He saw the uproar his West Virginia appearance caused across Steelers nation, but he laughed the speculation off.

Roethlisberger is confident he will bounce back in 2020

Roethlisberger’s elbow surgery, combined with his age, has many Steelers fans nervous for his return in 2020. The overweight speculation just added more fuel to the fire, but Roethlisberger was adamant that he will return to the field healthy and in better shape than ever.

“I have no doubts I’m going to be able to come back and play well — none,” Roethlisberger said. “I have complete confidence in that. I’m throwing without pain for the first time in years. Some games, I would have a little pain. Some games, I would have a lot of pain. But in the New England game and the Seattle game [last season], it got to be too much. To be able to throw without pain now? That feels nice. That’s a nice feeling. I know I’m not getting any younger, but I feel younger because I don’t have any pain.”

Maybe the time off was exactly what Roethlisberger needed. He has taken a beating and dealt with numerous injuries throughout his lengthy career, so taking a whole year off from football could rejuvenate the aging quarterback.

Steelers fans are more worried about what Roethlisberger will look like in 2020 than he is, and his weight is the least of his problems. His nickname might be “Big Ben,” but Roethlisberger insisted he isn’t as big as the Internet believes.