Q&A: Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger has been working out at the Steelers's practice facility since February, but he was joined this week by "75 percent" of his teammates. Roethlisberger stopped by the media room Tuesday afternoon to field everyone's questions about how he, the 2004 Rookie of the Year, is progressing.

Reporter: So, are you officially back?
Ben Roethlisberger: We call these the voluntary/mandatory workouts. It's good to be back out there with the guys. A lot of guys are back, probably 75 percent of them are back, and it's good to get back into it, be around them. It was good to get away from them for awhile but it feels good to get your body back in. We've been over there throwing a little bit and working out. Hopefully we'll continue to get better.

Reporter: Does this make you more anxious to get back out on the field?
Roethlisberger: Yes and no. Obviously a part of you wants to get back out there and start competing again, but there's a part of you that knows it's still the off-season and you kind of want to go hit some golf balls.

Reporter: How important was it for you to get right back into it and get back to watching film?
Roethlisberger: It was important for me because I feel the end of the season was kind of a letdown for myself. I felt that I didn't play as well as I could have or should have. So I want to get back into it and kind of try to redeem myself so it doesn't happen again.

Reporter: After looking at the end of the year, what kind of things are you trying to work on?
Roethlisberger: A little bit of everything. I'm trying to get better in all assets of my game, mentally, physically, getting better chemistry with the guys, the new guys, as they're coming in. I'm working a lot with Hines (Ward) and Antwaan (Randle El) and Lee (Mays) and the rest of the receivers, and running backs as well.

Reporter: Was it important to take some time away from them?
Roethlisberger: Absolutely. You have to. You have to get away mentally because the season is so draining. So to get away and go on vacation is good, and to play golf, do whatever you do, really helps you relax and get away from it all.

Reporter: What did you do?
Roethlisberger: Went and played some golf and relaxed.

Reporter: Did you play golf with anyone interesting?
Roethlisberger: Yeah, I played golf with a lot of interesting people, a lot of old-time quarterbacks, Troy Aikman and stuff like that.

Reporter: How are you throwing? Are you playing catch? Running routes? A little in-between?
Roethlisberger: A little in-between. Today I started showing these guys some new stuff I did in college with some tennis balls, made them catch one-handed. A lot of it is just standing and throwing. I don't want to obviously use up their legs now, but we do run a few routes, all half speed, three-quarter speed. Nothing too strenuous.

Reporter: You're throwing tennis balls at them?
Roethlisberger: Yes. It's all kinds of drills. I hold six tennis balls and, rapid-fire, throw them as fast as I can at them and they have to catch them one-handed and drop them, so it's little things I did in college and am trying to translate in. More than help them get better hands and hand-eye coordination is just getting on the same page and have fun with each other.

Reporter: How far away are you?
Roethlisberger: Oh, five, 10 yards.

Reporter: Does it help you?
Roethlisberger: No. It's not really for me. It's more for them.

Reporter: Anything you want to do this year that you didn't do last year or couldn't do or weren't allowed to do?
Roethlisberger: Win a Super Bowl.

Reporter: What about as far as your game's concerned?
Roethlisberger: We want to execute better. It'd be great if we can open up the offense a little more. Hopefully Coach Whis (offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt) won't be as afraid to be as restricted because I will have a year of experience under my belt. Hopefully he'll have more confidence in me and we'll have more confidence in each other.

Reporter: What's the difference in what you are doing now and what you were doing a year ago at this time?
Roethlisberger: Boy. I was pretty much here (both times) in front of you guys. That's the thing, last year at this time I was just getting ready for the draft. There were so many unanswered questions around. Now, I know what's going on. Now, I'm working on offense, working on my body, working with these receivers. This year it's a lot more fun, a lot less stressful.

Reporter: How about having Jerome (Bettis) back?
Roethlisberger: That's great. It speaks volume for his character, coming back and being a leader. I'm excited to have him back. I was hoping I didn't just play one year with a great player like Jerome.

Reporter: How do you feel about the new receiving crew?
Roethlisberger: Oh, great. I think we still have a great group of receivers just because we lost Plax (Burress). Obviously it hurts to lose a big guy like that. We've got a good core group of guys. I'm excited for them and I think they're excited for the season as well.

Reporter: Do you have guys who are capable of stepping into that spot?
Roethlisberger: I really think so. It's going to be hard to find someone as tall as Plax, but I think they can step in and be very productive and I'm going to rely on them and they're going to rely on me.

Reporter: You had a good chemistry with Plax. How will you build that with other receivers?
Roethlisberger: I think it starts with doing what we're doing now: having fun. Whether it's going over to someone's house for a cookout or going out here and throwing the ball around and laughing, having a good time, I think that's where it starts. It starts in the off-season and I think right now we're off on a good foot.

Reporter: Does having the extra year make you more comfortable in the locker room?
Roethlisberger: It does. Obviously you get a year, and especially playing last year, not just being around, it helps. The guys know me now. I know names; they know me. It's just easier. It's not walking on egg shells anymore. You're enjoying being a Steeler now.

Reporter: How tentative was Whis last year?
Roethlisberger: It's hard to tell. You'd have to ask him.

Reporter: Did you have that sense?
Roethlisberger: Sometimes. I probably would too, I mean, rookie quarterback, don't throw the book at him. Hopefully we open it up and he won't be afraid to open it up, whatever he didn't do last year. Maybe we ran the ball a lot because we had a great running back and great running game. Maybe this year we'll throw the ball a little more because he'll have more confidence in me knowing the offense better.

Reporter: Did his perception of what you could handle change at all through the year?
Roethlisberger: I don't know. Again, those are things you should ask him. I think that as the year goes on you add more plays and different things and you take certain things out. People don't realize that every week you have basically a new game plan. Some plays are the same. You carry them over. But every week you're throwing in new things and I think he didn't want to overload my mind too much. So like I said, hopefully he'll have confidence in me to let it go.

Reporter: Were you ever campaigning to do more and would you feel more comfortable now?
Roethlisberger: I always campaign to throw the ball more because I'm a quarterback, just like the running backs campaign to run the ball and the receivers want to catch the ball. But I think the way our offense was last year we did exactly what we were suited for. We ran the ball which is what we had to do because we had such a great running game, great offensive line. And like I said, I think we'll diversify a little bit.

Reporter: Could you reflect on your season and what you accomplished?
Roethlisberger: Obviously we didn't go as far as we wanted to go, but we had a good year, a good starting year for me, chemistry-wise, getting with the guys and learning. Hopefully it's just a building block and a stepping stone for what we want to do.

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