Ben Roethlisberger made the Steelers buy him a rugby ball to use in practice to make throwing a football easier

Ben RoethlisbergerGene J. Puskar/AP

For the past two seasons, as the rest of his team stretches together at the beginning of practice, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is often seen throwing a red and white rugby ball with an equipment manager standing some 15 feet away.

He throws it overhand, like a football, but also tosses it sidearm and underhand while experimenting with different grips and angles.

In a fun story on ESPN Wednesday, Jeremy Fowler explained that Roethlisberger does this for the same reason baseball players use donuts: it helps make the football feel smaller and lighter.

“It makes the actual ball feel smaller for practice,” Roethlisberger told ESPN.

Here’s Roethlisberger tossing it around during a practice, via PennLive:

Fowler also reports that the rugby ball, which is at least two ounces heavier than a football, helps Roethlisberger warm up his shoulder during practice.

According to Fowler, finding a rugby ball in Pittsburgh was surprisingly difficult for the Steelers equipment staff.

From ESPN:

The backstory behind the ball: About two years ago, Roethlisberger asked the equipment managers if he could bring a rugby ball to practices. But field manager Patrick Noone said the group looked everywhere — Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, wherever — and couldn’t find the ball for sale.

Eventually, they stumbled across BSN Sports out of Pittsburgh. About $33 later, Big Ben has his big ball.

It must be working. The Steelers went 11-5 this season and are in the playoffs for the third straight year.

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