Coming off a record-setting rookie year in which he guided the Steelers to the AFC Championship game, winning 13-straight regular season games along the way, Roethlisberger is hot property. Fans always want a piece of him. The media always wants to talk to him. Pretty celebrities want to date him.
Montana, who played 16 seasons in the NFL for San Francisco and Kansas City, said former 49ers head coach Bill Walsh gave him a piece of advice early in his career that helped him when it all got to be too much.
"It's tough on him right now," said Montana of Roethlisberger. "The toughest thing is one of the things Bill Walsh told me after my first Super Bowl. He would say, "The less people see you, the more they want you." He was just trying to tell me I was doing too much and to cut back and things will take their own course. You can't let what's happening outside of football control you from doing what you did normally to get ready for the season."
Roethlisberger and Steelers are currently at St. Vincent College in Latrobe preparing for the 2005 season. The 49-year-old Montana, meanwhile, was in Pittsburgh as part of a seminar devoted to raising awareness for high blood pressure, an illness Montana was diagnosed with in 2002. Montana said Roethlisberger has the correct mind frame when it comes to questions about his second year in the NFL. Many have said Roethlisberger is a prime candidate for a sophomore slump, but Montana isn't buying that.
"He just has to not listen to what other people are saying," said Montana. "I hear one guy told him that everybody's expecting it. Why should he expect a down year? Maybe the media expects it, but he should never expect it. (The media) is putting things in a guy's mind, he could say, ‘I'm supposed to have a down year because those guys said so.' Some people might think that way. I don't know him well enough, I just hope he doesn't think that."
But how should Roethlisberger, who threw 10 interceptions in his final five games last season, including five in two playoff contests, avoid that?
"All he needs to do is do what he did last year," Montana said. "He doesn't need to do any more and certainly not any less. If he just plays as steady as he did, he won't have anything to worry about. Times will come when he'll feel like he needs to step it up. A time will come in a game when he'll need to every now and then. But typically he can just go out and play at the level he's used to playing."
If it sounds as if Montana has kept a keen eye on Roethlisberger's progress, it's because he has. Even though he still lives in the San Francisco area and has basically been away from Western Pennsylvania since leaving to play college football at Notre Dame in the mid-'70s, Montana can't get away from his roots.
"I still live out there and I'm happy I played there, but I grew up a Steelers fan," he said. "I'm still a Steelers fan. I keep an eye on the 49ers, but a lot of things have changed there. The ownership is completely different. Also, I like to see what's going on in Kansas City because I was part of that organization. But I always keep my eyes on Pittsburgh."
Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter