It's the time of year when the temperatures are dropping in Pittsburgh, but on the football field things are heating up for the Steelers.
December football goes into full effect on Sunday at Heinz Field against the New York Giants, a time when everyone has to elevate their game as the hunt for a playoff spot is on.
"It's when you get hot, now is the time to be at your best," said Ben Roethlisberger. "The weather gets bad and that is what we love. It's time to go out and play football and do anything you can to win a football game, whether it's 50-0 or 2-0. Whatever you have to do to win a football game."
And what the Steelers will have to do is bring their 'A' game against a Giants team that comes in with an 8-3 record, and has rattled off six straight wins. But Roethlisberger feels the Steelers have what it takes to make the stretch run count, starting this week.
"We have a good combination of veteran guys that have been there and done that, with some young guys that are playing good football right now," said Roethlisberger. "We fought through some injuries and are getting healthy and have that little extra time to get ready to go. We have one of the best football teams in the NFL right now coming to our place. What an awesome challenge for this time of year."
The Giants bring a no-nonsense defense, but it's a defense that is menacing.
"They are a very good defense," said Roethlisberger. "They don't do a lot. It's not like they give you a lot of exotic looks and do a lot craziness. They just line up and beat you. They beat you with a pass rush that gets home and forces you to throw it quick. Their coverage is so good they find ways to create turnovers or break the ball up. This is going to be a big challenged for us.
"This is similar to the Cowboys. You have a small menu of things and you do them well. There isn't anything wrong with that. We do that on offense some times. You have to be able to adjust to whatever they throw at us or whatever we need to throw at them."
More from Ben:
On his link to Giants quarterback Eli Manning:"Obviously the same draft, the same year. We've played this game for a long time. Other than that, a mutual respect. I respect him, his game and what he's brought to the game of football. I think it's just a big-time respect for the game of football and what he's accomplished."
On if he thinks Manning, Philip Rivers and himself will make the Hall of Fame:
"I hope I am. I would assume that he (Manning) is going to make it with everything he's accomplished. And Philip's put up some tremendous numbers in this game. We've all be fortunate to play for a long time and been able to do a lot of great things. So that would be an awesome honor. But hopefully, that's a long way off."On the Giants possibly drafting him in 2004:
"It's a long time ago. But there were—as there are now—there's always lots of speculation during draft day of what could happen, what everyone's thinking and you never really know what's true and what's not. So obviously, that was one of the things that we possibly thought could happen. But I wouldn't change what happened for anything in the world."On what he thinks it would've been like in New York:
"Honestly, and no disrespect to them, the city or the team, I don't really care. I'm just so happy I ended up where I did. To be a part of this great organization with the Rooney family, with the amazing teammates I've had, fans and this city—which is home for me and my family. So I'm truly blessed to be here."*On who has the better no-huddle offense: "I don't know. I like to think we do, but they probably would say they do." On if there's hope the offense can get back to where it was during the first five games of the season with guys getting healthy: "That's always our goal, offense at least, to be the best we can be, 30 points a game, efficient on third downs, red zones, first downs and everything. So that extra kind of weekend off was really helpful for me, I know in particular, and everyone else. It kind of gets us hungry and chomping at the bit to get back out there. But we need to just keep finding ways to win football games however we have to." * *On if Le'Veon Bell gets tired: "Not that I know of. You'll have to ask him. He doesn't appear to. I know there's been times we run the no-huddle and he's been in there for seven, eight consecutive plays and he's been very active. I can look at him and it looks like he might need a break, and I've told him before, 'If we're in the no-huddle and I'm calling plays and you need one, I can call a play where you're not really doing as much to get a quick breather. Rather than go out and leave the game, I'll just call a play that you can get a breather on.' So it doesn't happen very often, if ever." On what nuances of the game Bell picks up that makes him so available: *"I think he's just the complete back. Whether it's picking the blitz, because there's never a fear in my mind when they blitz that he's not going to get his guy. I think there are probably a lot of quarterbacks in this league that when their running back is blocking, they're probably a little nervous and peaking over their shoulder. I never have that fear. And I know in the pass game that he's going to get open, he's going to make catches and make plays. And then, we all know what he can do in the run game. So he's just a special back. To me he's the best all-around in the game."