Roethlisberger prepares for the challenge ahead


Kicking it off on the road against the defending champs in a nationally-televised, much-anticipated, NFL regular-season opener has traditionally been a difficult assignment for the visitors.

What's taken place in New England and with Tom Brady off the field and in U.S. District Court ever since Super Bowl XLIX might contribute to making Gillette Stadium even more of an emotional powder keg on Thursday night.

"It'll be hostile," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger acknowledged. "It'll be a great test, a great challenge for our guys. Some young guys, I use that phrase 'welcome to the NFL,' it's going to be a heck of a welcome.

"I think the biggest thing is to go out and control your emotion because there's going to be a lot of emotion flowing. The nerves will be flying around. Even guys like myself that have done it for a long time will be nervous. It's how fast can you get rid of the jitters and the nerves and just play football?"

Roethlisberger admitted to having taken more than a peek at the New England defense during the latter stages of the preseason.

"Quite a bit," he said. "During some off time and then last week especially knowing I'm not going to do much in that last (preseason) game.

"Compared to last year it's different. Last year you let (cornerback Darrelle) Revis just kind of have that 'Revis Island' over there. This year they've been doing some different things so we've got a lot of film study still to try and prepare and get ready for."

The Steelers will engage the Patriots without center Maurkice Pouncey (injured), running back Le'Veon Bell (suspended) and wide receiver Martavis Bryant (suspended).

Roethlisberger expressed great confidence in the replacements the Steelers will be relying upon to handle the ball after it's been snapped.

He characterized running back DeAngelo Williams as "a proven, veteran guy that's been in the league a long time, runs hard, he's smart. He knows the system already, he's already been putting hard work in and he just had a baby so he's ready to win a game ball for it."

As for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, "If you watch during the course of a practice he's always helping guys, younger guys," Roethlisberger said. "He can play pretty much all three spots at the receiver position. Smart, knows what's going on, doesn't make a lot of mistakes. If he does make a mistake it won't happen twice. I think his mental side of the receiver position is really strong.

"And obviously his speed is something we all know about and can't deny."

The Steelers' excitement as they begin preparing in earnest for Thursday night is likewise undeniable.

"We're ready to go," Roethlisberger said. "After having those meetings this morning, kind of introduction meetings where they introduce the other team and all the gameplan and stuff that we're going to do it kind of really hit us that now it's time to get going."

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