Ben: 'He's crazy talented'

Crazy talented: Third-year receiver Diontae Johnson is on track to have his best season yet, with 809 yards receiving on 68 receptions, closing in on the 923 yards he had in 2020.

Johnson has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year, after struggling with drops in 2020 he has been Mr. Dependable for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"I mean, he's crazy talented," said Roethlisberger of Johnson. "The things he can do to get open. His quickness, his speed, his short area, bursts and things like that. I saw him yesterday and told him how proud I was of him not quitting at the end of that game. Just keep fighting through stuff. I think those are all things that show growth and maturity for a young guy that does some great things for us."

Johnson definitely put in the work to get where he is today. And continues to put in the work, one of the last players off the field, working equipment assistant Lou Blade always catching extra passes.

"He's a guy that busts his butt," said Roethlisberger. "In his locker, he's got the secondary for the team we're getting ready to play. It goes up on Monday so he's constantly looking at it."

The rivalry: The Steelers roster is a young one, but Roethlisberger said that shouldn't have an impact on their knowledge of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry.

"If they don't understand quickly," said Roethlisberger. "I think this rivalry, this game has been played out on TV for so many years. If you're a football fan, you have to know about it. You just don't know personally what it's about yet."

When they take the field on Sunday at Heinz Field, it will be two teams who are clearly familiar with each other. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't expect the unexpected. 

"It's been that way from Ed Reed to now," said Roethlisberger. "Coach (Mike Tomlin) was showing today that Marlon Humphrey does some of the same stuff where one minute he's on the line of scrimmage, the next he's 20 yards deep. That started 20 years ago even before I got here with Ed Reed. He would be at the line of scrimmage when you look left and then look back right, he was gone."

Respect: Over the years, when you walked into the Steelers locker room for media availabilities, there is one thing you would notice.

There was no music playing.

While it might not sound like something major or earth-shattering, music playing in a locker room while players are sitting around or just getting ready isn't uncommon.

But not in the Steelers locker room.

And there was a reason why.

Ben Roethlisberger asked guys not to play it because late Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney Sr. would often walk in, and when he spoke to the players in his soft tone, Roethlisberger wanted to make sure everyone could hear every word he said.

"It was always Mr. Rooney, Mr. Dan," said Roethlisberger. "I don't know why, it was just always that way. I think as guys started to leave the locker room that tradition of history, I tried to keep it going, Brett Keisel kept it going, (Maurkice) Pouncey. I always told guys, because people would play music, new guys would come in and play music. I would shut it down. I was the grumpy old man that didn't want music. I had a conversation with guys like Cam Heyward and Vince Williams and told him the reason that we don't do it is because I always wanted if Mr. Rooney came in the locker room, you wanted to listen to him. You wanted to hear the things he had to say. Whether it was about Steelers or about life. About whatever.

"He was like a grandfather to all of us and so much love for him. Obviously as new guys came in and Mr. Rooney wasn't around, they don't understand that quite as much, so we tried to pass it on. Even after he passed, I tried to tell guys I still wait for him to walk through that door to come talk. And you just want to listen to him because he was so soft spoken, but it was so wise.

"So that was always my thing of why I didn't want the music because you never had it when he was around. I wanted to carry that on and the last couple of years I just kind of relented. I'll stop being the grumpy guy and if they want to listen to music, they can listen to music."

Roethlisberger said he had no problem understanding traditions like that when he was drafted by the Steelers, a lot of it due to the respect he had for Dan Rooney.

"Right from the get-go I respected and understood the tradition here," said Roethlisberger. "I guess I was raised to respect your elders and to understand. Mr. Rooney just meant so much, especially knowing what he did to get me here. It meant a lot."

Since Rooney passed away in 2017, there has been a lot of turnover on the Steelers roster, and Roethlisberger admits many of the players on today's roster don't even know who he was.

"You can pass it on and like I said, I told those guys the story of why I didn't want the music because I just loved to hear the stories," said Roethlisberger. "But you can only tell guys those stories so much. You could pass on tradition all you want, but the further you get away from some, the harder it is to do."

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