By Teresa Varley
It was a good offseason for Ben Roethlisberger. He signed a new contract that provides long-term security. He has his top running back healthy again in Willie Parker. On draft day he got two new offensive weapons in running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed. And of course his top two receivers, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, are ready to produce again.
With all of that comes a lot of expectations and most of them coming from Roethlisberger himself.
"No one is going to put more pressure on me than me," said Roethlisberger. "Regardless of the contract it's about going out and winning football games. I know the fans want us to win. I want to win worse than anybody."
Roethlisberger will get his first chance to use his weapons and go for that first win on Sunday against the Houston Texans at Heinz Field. He is ready and raring to go.
"Everyone is glad it's finally here," he said. "You have been amped up during training camp and the offseason. It counts now. It matters.
"We're itching to get out there. The biggest thing is to go out there and not be too anxious, too over-amped. We need to go out there and be even keeled and play smart football."
That will be a must as the Texans will present a big challenge for the Steelers on defense.
"People don't realize how good they are, especially defensively," said Roethlisberger. "They are flying around and are fast, all the way from the front to the back. They are a good defense. It will be a tough challenge for us."
One player who will definitely be on the Steelers radar is defensive end Mario Williams. The offensive line will have their hands full keeping him away from Roethlisberger, but he has faith they can get the job done.
"I hope he never gets close to me," said Roethlisberger. "I have a lot of confidence in Marvel (Smith) and Willie (Colon) and our tight ends to do a good job of shutting him down.
"You have to know where he is at all times because he is an impact player. Is it going to make us not run to his side or be scared, I don't think that? But you have to be aware of where he is because he is such a great player."
The offensive line has two new starters this year, center Justin Hartwig and guard Chris Kemoeatu. Hartwig and Roethlisberger are getting in as much work as possible before Sunday and so far things are progressing smoothly.
"Justin has done a great job of learning where I am and I am learning about him," said Roethlisberger, of his third center in as many years. "We are learning on the fly here because we had Sean (Mahan) and then all of a sudden it's Justin. He has done a good job adjusting to me and the rest of the guys around him and I think he'll be great.
"The line, that's where it always starts, whether it's the run game or the pass game it always evolves around the line. I tell them that before every game. We go as they go. I look forward to big things from them."
And from the entire team as well.
"I set my goals so high," he said. "The Super Bowl is what we are going for. We are young enough and experienced enough. I think we know deep down how good we can be and we just have to make sure we stay focused on what we have to do."