The NFL knew what they were doing when, as a part of the league's flex scheduling policy, they changed the start time of Sunday's Steelers-Bengals game at Heinz Field to a 4:25 kickoff, making it a game that will go out to more of a national audience for CBS.
It's going to be a battle of two tough defenses, the Steelers ranked No. 3 overall in the NFL, while the Bengals are one notch ahead, the No. 2 ranked defense in the league.
"I think you can stop after saying they are the No. 2 defense in the NFL," said Roethlisberger. "That's enough said. It's a really, really big challenge for us."
After a 0-3 start the Bengals have won their last two games, defeating the Browns, 31-7, and the Bills, 20-16, a lot of that due in part to their defense. They are holding opponents to only 159.6 yards passing per game, and just 262.8 yards of total offense per game. The Bengals are also ranked second in points allowed at just 16.6 per game.
"It doesn't get any easier this week," said Roethlisberger. "That is a really, really good defense. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It's a familiar opponent. They know us as well. They have a lot of the same guys over there, they don't have a lot of turnover on defense. They know each other, they played together, and they played together well."
The Bengals are coming off their bye week, an opportunity for a team to oftentimes tweak things, or add new wrinkles on both sides of the ball. Roethlisberger expects some of that.
"Traditionally you expect something new, whether it's a new blitz, a new look, new plays on offense, whatever it is," said Roethlisberger. "They have had a week head start on us, just another eight ball we are behind."
A tight situation: Tight end Vance McDonald had his first catch in a Steelers uniform against the Chiefs, and it was a clutch reception. McDonald caught a 26-yard pass from Roethlisberger, getting the Steelers out of a big hole as they were pinned at their own one-yard line.
"I missed him a little bit on that one deep ball early," said Roethlisberger. "I know he can run. I put it out there for him, probably an inch or two too far. We connected later in the game on a big coming out play. I think repetition helps both of us."
Roethlisberger, who for a long time had Heath Miller as his security blanket on offense at tight end, is comfortable having multiple tight ends he can count on and his rapport with McDonald is definitely growing.
"I think he has a lot of confidence," said Roethlisberger. "He is learning this offense more and more every day, getting more reps, more practice time, more communication with me. I have seen steps every day, every week."