When the NFL schedule first came out in April, everyone who knows anything about football knew a Steelers-Patriots game in mid-December would have a lot of meaning, that a lot would be on the line.
For the Steelers, that is the case.
After losing the last three games, the Steelers still hold on to first place in the AFC North at 7-5-1, with Baltimore breathing down their necks with a 7-6 record. Winning out is key, and it all begins this week against the Patriots at Heinz Field.
"It's always a big game," said Ben Roethlisberger. "They're the best for a reason and everyone wants to go after them. They are fun, they are physical, a big challenge for us. It hasn't been a big challenge for them, but for us it has been."
The Patriots have won the last five meetings against the Steelers, and nine of the last 12 since Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004.
"The Patriots are one of the best teams for a reason. We are not the only team that has issues with them," said Roethlisberger. "They're that good. The past is the past, we can only focus on this week."
The struggles of the last three weeks are something that Roethlisberger admits is frustrating, especially after riding a six-game win streak previously.
"It's very frustrating. You want to win them all, but you understand you can't," said Roethlisberger. "We can only control this week. We have had opportunities. We just for whatever reason haven't found a way to do it. I don't think it's from a lack of sense of urgency. It could be lack of execution, lack of one thing here or there. We understand what it takes to get it done. We just have to do it.
"We realize what's at stake. Not panic. It's not going to get any easier."
The one thing he doesn't want there to be any confusion over, is that frustration means there is any lack of confidence. Roethlisberger knows what the team is capable of. He said there is no lack of confidence. It's just a matter now of going out and getting it done.
"I think it's understanding what we need to do, facing adversity in the face and just getting ready for one of the biggest challenges we have had all year."
More from Roethlisberger:
On what he sees in the Patriots defense and their vulnerability:
"I haven't seen that vulnerability and I have been watching a lot of film. They are a good defense that gets after you. They make quarterback's days frustrating because they are bringing pressure. They are throwing some really unique looks. We know they are an all-around good football team."
On how they manage to create turnovers:
"Pressure. They are smart football players. They don't panic when the ball is in the air. That has been their MO. When the ball is in the air they try and find it. That's special."
On his thoughts of fan criticism and comments from former Steelers running back Rocky Bleier:
"We want to win for the fans, for each other, for the fans all over the world. You saw in Oakland all the Steelers fans there. We wanted to win for them. When former players come out that have paved the way for us they're entitled to say what they want. There is nothing wrong with that. As a family, we consider Rocky family, we would hope he wouldn't say those things. He is entitled."