PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger would later show off a confidence on the football field that he didn't have last week, but earlier in the day he showed off a desire to bring confidence back to a shaken Steelers locker room.
"I’m excited to get going. It’s a new week," said Roethlisberger. "Everything we’ve done so far is behind us, good, bad and indifferent. We’re excited for the second half of the football season."
Roethlisberger spoke respectfully of the team coming to Heinz Field on Sunday, the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys, and said, "This is November and December football. This is when it all counts and when it all matters."
How can a team in the midst of a three-game losing streak find a way out of the apparent darkness?
"Follow me," he said.
Roethlisberger paused, making for greater effect, and added, "Guys who have been here know (it's) no time or reason to panic."
"Just watch me," he said.
Later that afternoon, Roethlisberger was the centerpiece of a practice that was about as sharp and crisp and crackling as any of late.
"We expect that from Ben," said the guy who was doing the same thing on the defensive side of the ball, Cam Heyward.
"Ben's a proven leader. He's won Super Bowls, done everything, and he wants another one. He understands this opportunity. I think a lot of guys have to understand that we've got to have that sense of urgency. We don't have that room any more. So we have to be accountable and we have to hold guys accountable as well."
This, of course, comes on the heels of a penalty and mistake-filled loss at Baltimore, after which Le'Veon Bell said, "I think we have to practice better. Even at practice we have mistakes like that."
The remark grew into a media assault on the Steelers' preparation process throughout this three-game losing streak.
Heyward addressed the topic.
"That's his own opinion," Heyward said. "But guys are working. Guys are putting in the effort. Sometimes it might be a little sloppy. Sometimes we have to replay a play. That's just because we want a good look. If he feels that way, let him feel that way, and that means practice has got to pick up even more. But I thought today was a good practice."
Heyward explained that last week's practices included "a lot of moving pieces." He, like Roethlisberger, was returning from an injury and coaches had to balance reps for the injured with reps for potential replacements in case the injured couldn't make it back.
"There's a fine line," Heyward said. "Everybody's got to get work."
Would he characterize those practices as sloppy? Were coaches letting things go?
"Oh, nobody's letting things go," Heyward said. "I think if anything we might have to replay a play. If a guy's not catching a ball, you've got to make adjustments. But I don't think they were bad practices.
"We don't practice perfect but we try to. That's the ultimate goal because you want to get ready for Sunday. And when you don't get the job done on Sunday, you look back on it and say 'there are other things I could've done.'"
Heyward added that he did sense an urgency Wednesday at the Steelers' first practice in preparation for the Cowboys.
"But it's got to be present on Sunday," he said. "We can sit here and say it was present today, but we've got to feel it on Sunday. We've got to make sure that we play our best football on Sunday."null