Q&A: Ben Roethlisberger

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger will return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Following is the transcript from his once-a-week meeting with reporters:


Are you ready to go?
Yes I am. It's really exciting to be out there. I felt bad last week not being out there for my guys, but I'm healthy now and ready to go.

Will you be as mobile as you had been?
I think so. I feel good out there. I have a lot of confidence in the offensive line. I think they'll do a great job of protecting me and hopefully I won't have to move at all.

Was Cincinnati one of the most physical games last November?
Yeah, it definitely was. It was a tough game for us. They came out and did a lot of different things, threw some blitzes at us. I didn't play my best game; it was probably one of the main reasons why it was so close. Hopefully we'll have a better game this time.

How important is it to come back now, given the magnitude of this game?
It's real big. It's an AFC game in our division. They're in first place, so it's a must-win for us. It's our biggest game of the year and we're going to have to play like it is.

Are you surprised at how far the Bengals have come?
They've done a great job. Coach Lewis is having them play the schemes well and Carson's doing a great job. He's the MVP right now of the league. He's got a lot of tools; their offense is playing good; their defense is playing good. Those are the things it takes to be a great team.

How has the nature of this rivalry changed given their resurgence?
This is definitely going to be a big game for us and I'm sure it's going to be a big game for them because they are playing so well now and they are the top of the division, so it's going to be a big game for us.

How hard did you lobby to play last week?
Very hard.

Are you going to have anybody to throw to?
I always have somebody to throw to, whether it's a tight end, running back or receiver. We'll find someone.

Will it be tough with all the injuries?
It's going to be a challenge for us. We do have a lot of guys dinged up and banged up. I don't think there are too many serious things, but it's enough to be nagging and hold some people back, so hopefully we get as many back as we can this week; if not hopefully they'll be rested up for the following week.

Were you lobbying to play during the game?
Once the game started I knew where I was on the depth chart, so I knew there wasn't any more use in lobbying anymore.

What about the Bengals' defense?
Their defense is very fast, athletic. They play well. Every play it seems like there are nine guys around the ball, and when a ball gets tipped it gets tipped nine, 10 times and they always seem to come up with it. They're making the most of their opportunities and they're playing well.

They have 14 interceptions and you have none. What's going to happen?
I don't have anything here to knock on, now, you can't be talking about those things. No, we're going to go out and try to play smart football. Hopefully we'll keep the ball out of their hands.

Against them, can you lean on the running game a little more?
I think the running game is obviously the strength of our offense, so we're going to go out and pound the ball, whatever coach has in store, and I'm sure Coach Whis will call a great game.

Was the last game an indication of how much this team needs you and Hines and Bettis and everybody?
Last week was tough but it's over now. So we're going to focus on Cincinnati and I'm happy to be back out there.

What's it like looking up to these guys?
I like being the hunter, rather than the hunted. .It's going to be a challenge for us. We're going to have to get this game, but it's a long season. We always take it one game at a time and this is the biggest game of the year for us.

How are they getting turnovers?
I think it's a lot of things: blitzing, dropping guys into coverage, the ball's bouncing their way. Sometimes that's what it takes for championship teams is the ball just happens to bounce your way, and it does that a lot. Hopefully we can keep the ball bouncing towards us.

What was it like watching from the sideline?
Real tough. It was the first game I missed ever, or since I was ever a starter, so it was real tough to miss that game. I wanted to be out there for my guys and I wanted them to know they could count on me, so that was tough and that's why I tried to be out there. But coach made the decision and I tried to do the best I could from the sideline.

Was it a case of him being too firm to even watch you run or throw?
You'll have to ask him. I don't know why he made his decision.

Did you run for him?
Yes, I did.

Could you have played?
I wanted to, but that game's in the past. We're focusing on Cincinnati.

Did you feel for Tommy last week and the criticism that followed?
Absolutely. People need to realize – and I know they won't – there were 45 mile-an-hour winds out there. It was tough. A lot of those plays were not his fault. The wind's knocking the balls down. There's no way he should've gotten the criticism that he did. I was there and I was trying to support him to tell him it definitely was not his fault.

Did you talk to him after the game?
It's hard for a young guy to talk to a veteran like that. What do you say to him? He's had so much more experience than me. I really just went up and patted him on the back and said keep your head up. That's all I can do.

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