Ben Roethlisberger knows the challenge that is ahead of the Steelers this week, going against the NFC's top-ranked defense and the NFL's second-ranked defense in the Seattle Seahawks. It's going to be a test, but one they are preparing for with everything they have.
"I have a great appreciation for that whole defense," said Roethlisberger. "Their defensive ends, their front seven really get after it. Their secondary locks people down. I don't have to play against them to respect them. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best."
One player who has made that defense, the secondary in particular, so tough to face is cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman combines football savvy and athletic ability, and while Roethlisberger would like to steer clear of throwing his way, he knows he can't.
"It's hard to shy away from a guy they are going to put on your best guy," said Roethlisberger, who said he plans to wear his knee brace this week but not the larger shoe that has protected his swollen foot. "If they are going to have Richard follow Antonio (Brown) everywhere that means I am not going to throw to AB and he is one of the best in the business.
"I don't think you can shy away from a guy like that, but you have to be aware of where he is and what he is doing. I am not going to throw every single pass at him. I have a lot of respect for him as a football player. Very smart player, a technician in his craft. It's going to be a big test for myself and AB and whoever else he is covering."
A little more from Ben:
On if the rest during the bye week helped:
"I hope so. We all have been kind of waiting for it. It was a long time coming. It was good for us all to recharge the battery and get ready for a really important run. It starts this week. It's the most important game."
On getting Markus Wheaton more involved:
"We are not going to try and force anybody the ball. We are just going to play our game. I know Markus puts in a lot of work and time and wants to contribute to this team. I have all of the faith in the world that he will."
On playing in Seattle, where crowd noise is a factor:
"We'll just prepare like we always do. We expect it to be incredibly loud, but a lot of us have never been there so we don't know what to expect. Other than what you see on TV and hear about, that is what you have to prepare for."
On his health:
"I feel pretty good. The bye week came at a good time. Nobody is 100 percent at this time of year. You just want to be as healthy as you can be going into a run. I feel good, but we will see how it feels this week."
On Alan Faneca being a Hall of Fame semifinalist:
"A special football player. Could do it all. One of the best in the business, one of the best that has ever done it. I am really happy for him to get that nod and hope that he gets in."