For the first three series of the fourth quarter,
But when it came down to it, when the Steelers season was completely on the line in the AFC Wild Card game against the Bengals, Roethlisberger did what true leaders do. He put the pain as far in the back of his mind as he could and he returned to the game.
“It was encouraging for us on the offense when we saw him come out. And then he started making plays. He is an extreme competitor. We are honored to follow him in this journey.”
Roethlisberger left the game at the end of the third quarter after a sack by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Steelers had a 15-0 lead at the time, but the tide would quickly turn. The Bengals offense would take over, erasing the Steelers lead, going up 16-15.
And that’s when in Roethlisberger stepped in.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Villanueva. “He is slow to get off the ground some times, and rightfully so. He gets hit a lot. As an offensive lineman we have to do a better job protecting him. He took a hit from a very big guy. We were hoping the best for him. It was encouraging to see him come back in.”
The offense rallied around their leader, giving them the push they needed to get into Cincinnati territory, where a pair of Bengals’ penalties put them in field goal position.
“I will follow him any day,” said Villanueva. “He is a guy cheering me when I make a mistake. When I get him hit, he is cheering me, encouraging me. He takes responsibility for everything the team does or fails to do and that is a definition of a leader, a definition I learned in the Army.
“He is doing great things, keeping this team motivated. He is giving direction and purpose to everybody out there. We just have to match his intensity and level of play so we will do great things.”