For Ben Roethlisberger, the emotions have been high the last few days after the incredible reception he got at Heinz Field on Monday night from Steelers Nation at what was most likely his last home game.
He said the feeling on Tuesday when he had a little bit of a chance to let it all sink in, was simply 'surreal.'
"My family and I just felt so much love and we're so thankful from the fans, former teammates, all the many, many notes that were written on social media, texts we got, calls. It's really hard to put it into words," said Roethlisberger. "Like I said after the game, I wish I could bottle it up and kind of keep it forever.
"I think one of the most special things about the night is that my kids are old enough to remember it. It was something that I'll cherish and remember forever, and I think they will too. I just can't say enough thank yous to all the people that made that night so special."
Roethlisberger shared some special moments with his kids, Benjamin, Baylee and Bode, following the game, something that truly touched him.
"For them to know and understand what's going on is pretty cool," said Roethlisberger. "My youngest is five and I don't remember a lot of things from when I was five. There's probably one or two things that all of us can remember from when we were really young. I really hope this will be one of the things. I know the oldest one will and then my daughter will, but for them to understand what dad did and to go fight and compete and win and give it everything I have. I hope it's something that they understand, that will get passed down to them as well."
While there is nothing Roethlisberger would like more than to have just one more game at Heinz Field in the postseason or walk away like Jerome Bettis did after winning Super Bowl XL, going out with a win against an AFC North opponent, a long-time rival like the Cleveland Browns had meaning.
"That was magical what happened on Monday night," said Roethlisberger. "I'm sure Jerome would kind of tell you the same thing, just the magic of how you can end things. Obviously, we have another game, but just in speaking of that last home game. I mean it was against Cleveland, which is as close to of my hometown as you can get. An AFC North a team that we played so many times. I am so thankful for everybody, all my teammates that just poured into it. I was just so proud, thankful for Najee (Harris), just the way that he played and kind of finished that game for us."
Harris had the best night of his rookie season, rushing for 188 yards and scoring on a 37-yard run to secure the win.
Roethlisberger said it reminded him of the scenario when Bettis was finishing out his career. The Steelers lost in the AFC Championship game at Heinz Field in 2004, and Roethlisberger, who was a rookie at the time, convinced Bettis to come back for one more year, promising to get him to Super Bowl XL in his hometown of Detroit.
This time, it was a rookie who helped Roethlisberger win one of the most important games of his career.
"I think about this last game and what it means in terms of old guys and young guys," said Roethlisberger. "I think 18 years ago a young first round quarterback came in and helped an old running back win one of the most important games and now you flip it around. Last week, a young first round running back helped an old quarterback win one of the most important games of his career. So, it's kind of cool how this football thing comes full circle."
It going to take young, old, and everyone in between to come together this week to pull out a huge win against the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore. The Steelers are still in the playoff hunt, as are the Ravens, and first and foremost they must beat Baltimore to stay in the hunt. There are more things that have to happening, including Jacksonville beating Indianapolis, and the Las Vegas-Los Angeles Chargers game not ending in a tie, but winning is at the forefront.
"We got to go out and win this football game," said Roethlisberger. "We have to focus on us. That's our number one focus, winning the football game because nothing happens if we don't. That will be 99.9% of our focus. Because we're human, we're probably still going to be peaking (at the score), but we have to win our football game. That has to be our big focus."