Ben Roethlisberger remembers his rookie year in 2004, when cornerback Chad Scott spoke to the players about how special it is to play in an AFC Championship Game. He told them it's not easy to get there, and it's something you have to appreciate.
Roethlisberger said he took it in, but after playing in the game in 2004, and then winning Super Bowl XL in 2005, thought maybe it isn't that hard.
But after not being to the Super Bowl since the 2010 season, and not winning one since the 2008 season, Roethlisberger knows it's not an easy thing and he is now sharing that with the team's younger players.
"Chad Scott got up and spoke to the team, said just don't take this for granted, how hard it is to get there, and those kind of things," said Roethlisberger during the Steelers' AFC Championship Game press conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Wednesday. "You hear it and the next year you go and win a Super Bowl and you think, maybe it's not as hard as he talked about.
"As you get older you understand this league and how difficult it is, and how good teams are. You definitely appreciate the difficulty in playing this game, playing it for a long time and getting the opportunity to make a playoff. Look at the teams that haven't made a playoff in how many years. I am so thankful and blessed to be a part of this organization that has been able to make the playoffs, win Super Bowls. I try to reiterate to the younger players how precious this moment is."
'This moment' that Roethlisberger refers to is Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. It will be the third time that the Steelers have played the Patriots in the championship game, and the second time it will be Ben Roethlisberger vs. Tom Brady in the AFC's biggest game of the year.
While it's a selling point for many, Roethlisberger knows it's about more than the two quarterbacks.
"I think it's two old guys playing this game for a long time," said Roethlisberger. "That is what a lot of the talk is. He deserves all the credit that he gets. It's bigger than the two of us. I know he is used to it.
"This is two football teams that have won championships that are going against each other. It's more than just one man. We aren't playing tennis. We are going out to play a football game with 11 guys at a time.
"At the quarterback position you get used to it. When you play games, you hear a lot of talk about quarterback vs. quarterback because that is the sexy way to talk about games. But I am sure if you ask him, he knows it's way bigger than just the two of us."
Roethlisberger, who earlier this year asked Brady for his jersey, and got it, said he did so because he considers him one of the best, 'if not the best' of all time. He also has the same kind of respect for the Patriots as a whole.
"They are the best in the world," said Roethlisberger. "They are the gold standard if you will. You want the opportunity to go up and play the best. It will be an awesome challenge for us."
On Le'Veon Bell carrying the team to some extent during the postseason and what he has done thus far in the playoffs: "
It's what I had hoped for and expected. He is a very special football player. He rises up to the challenge that I presented to him and that we presented to him as an offense and team. It is great to see. But he is only as good as the guys up front are, and they are playing pretty well right now."**
On what he remembers about the 2004 AFC Championship Game: **
It was really cold [Laughs]. Just how good of a football team they were. They got after me. They made me make some mistakes. I just realized kind of what it was going to take to get over that hump. Obviously I was blessed to win a Super Bowl the next year, and that helps kind of put that behind you a little bit.* On if that game making you feel more gratified to make it back other times:*
Shoot, you get a chance to play in the AFC Championship Game, it's always gratifying, no matter who you are playing. Like I said, it's an awesome challenge that we get to go play them, kind of "the team" to beat.* On this group of players and all that you have been through this year and why you handle distractions well:*
Because we have been able to move on. We've had our ups and downs this year. Good, bad, injuries, whatever, we have been able to overcome. That's what makes this team special. It starts with the leadership up top with the Rooney family, trickling down to the coaches and the veteran guys on this team. We focus in when we need to.* On what changed from being 4-5 and now nine straight wins:*
I don't know if there was one thing [that turned it around]. I know that was a time kind of when we were dealing with some injuries and trying to figure out kind of who we are and were, and our identity. I think guys – and I know the whole Aaron Rodgers, "Relax" thing, and we all kind of said, "Listen, we are going to be okay." Let's just follow the lead of the veterans. I think guys like myself, Maurkice Pouncey, William Gay, guys that have been on this team and have been through this, just kind of said, "We've been here before. It's no time to panic." And we haven't panicked. That has been kind of our saying here the last few weeks. Just don't panic when things get tough.* On if he had to say "Follow me," again after doing it before the Dallas game:*
I haven't. As a guy that has been around a long time, and I consider myself a leader and captain of this team, you should only have to say things one time. And I said it once. I feel like as a guy that has been here, like I said, you just have to go do it. Actions speak louder than words now. That's what I have been doing and a lot of guys have been doing these last few weeks.On the Patriots have the top scoring defense in the league and how their defense has evolved:
To me, they are just a defense that beats you. They line up. They get the pass rush after you. Their secondary is incredibly good. They are opportunistic. They don't make mistakes. They are a defense that you aren't going to catch off guard. You're not going to trick them. You're not going to be able to hit them with the gimmicky-type of stuff. They play their fundamentals. They play them very well. They play as a unit. That's what this sport is about. That's why it's the ultimate team sport.On if the
Patriots are focusing on Bell and Brown and where you turn to:
Just what you saw last week. I thought Jesse James had a great game. I thought Eli Rogers stepped up and did some things. We are using guys. Landry Jones had his usual one catch, but a big catch, in the game. Darrius Heyward-Bey was in there. Sammie Coates is coming back to us. So, we have a lot of guys that I think can make plays for us, outside of the usual suspects. Even if it is one or two big plays a game, sometimes that can be enough, if the play is made at the right time.On with success
running the ball and how defenses have prepared for you:
We have noticed a lot of teams are trying to take away the big play. They don't want the quick strike or big play. So they are playing deep and taking away that play. So that forces us and makes us understand we need to run the ball. We have been really good at doing that. The last couple of weeks, we have come out throwing the ball in order to run the ball. And we know with this defense that we are playing this week, and the team, they usually outcoach their opponents. They usually outplay their opponents. So, it's a big challenge and test for us. We are going to have to be as good as we have ever been, to beat this team.
On red zone in Kansas City:
We put that behind us. Throughout the season we were one of the top red zone teams in the NFL. We moved the ball down there. Whether we didn't execute one play or two plays, but give them credit for making plays and stepping up. Hopefully that was just a little anomaly and we can move on from it.On 12
years since you had to face the Patriots in the playoffs and if that feels right to you that you are here now to face them for a chance to go to the Super Bowl:
I'm going to be honest, I don't care who we had to play in the AFC Championship Game. It's the championship game. You have one game to get to the Super Bowl. Like I said, you are going up to the lion's den, the dragon's lair. They are the dragon. We are trying to slay them. It doesn't matter who it is, but they are the "gold standard."
On what Patriots Julian Edelman said yesterday 'that's how the Steelers' organization is run':
I don't think I need to speak much [about the Steelers]. We have the trophies out there. We have owners that I think are the best in the business. They are family to us. And I am sure if he talked to his owner, he would say the same thing about the Rooneys. Anybody in here or in the football world, or regular world, that know the Rooneys, know who they are and what they stand for. It's a blessing to call them family. I have played with guys that have come from other teams. They look shocked when they see our owners, whether it's Mr. Dan Rooney or Mr. Art Rooney II, walking around the locker room and walking around practice. They don't ever see their owners. We see our owners every single day. I think it's just a blessing to know that they care about us, and that's one of the reasons we want to go win. I am going to go meet with Mr. Dan Rooney here in a little bit. I do a weekly meeting with him. We just go down the week and see how it was, just because I want to talk to him. It's a joy to play for him and win for them.On if he savors this stage with the opportunity to go to your fourth Super Bowl by facing what you called the "gold standard:
Yeah. It's because you never know when the next moment is going to happen. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Let's enjoy this moment and this day, which is why I am enjoying talking to you guys today up here. Because you never know if this opportunity will present itself again. You might as well enjoy it and relish every moment. I've been telling these young guys. I am going to be the Chad Scott that I got to talk to a long time ago. You don't know if we will be able to do this again. So enjoy it. Enjoy every moment of it. It truly is a blessing to be able to do what we do.