Chris Steuber: How are OTAs going thus far?
Ben Roethlisberger: Going well.
CS: What are you working on?
Roethlisberger: We’re just working on the offense. This is our second year in this offense under Bruce [Arians], and we’re just trying to learn it. We’re doing the two-minute stuff, no-huddle stuff; just putting a lot of work in.
CS: Last year was your first-year under Mike Tomlin, and after having Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh for so many years, I’m sure there was a big transition for everyone. Entering your fifth season with the Steelers, how have you adjusted to the new regime and offense?
Roethlisberger: Obviously, any time there is change it’s different. We’re a year into the change now, and I think everybody feels a little more comfortable, including him [Tomlin].
CS: Last season you guys went 10 – 6, and it was a solid season overall, but what could you have done better, and what do you have to improve on for this season?
Roethlisberger: It’s all about finishing. We didn’t finish late in the year, and I felt we ran out of gas towards the end. That’s big for us, we have to make sure we come out and play fast all the way through games and throughout the season. For us, it’s all about coming out, playing our game and finishing the season out.
Roethlisberger holds up his new Steelers jersey after being selected 11th overall in 2004.
AP Photo/Ed Betz
CS: You’ve accomplished a lot in your career in such a short period of time. There have been some high points and low points throughout your career and you’ve always managed to pull through in the end. Take me back to where it all started - draft day. I remember watching the draft on TV, and after Philip Rivers was selected, all eyes were on you. ESPN’s Suzy Kolber was interviewing you when your agent got the call from the Steelers. Were you a little disappointed to have to wait as long as you did to hear your name called?
Roethlisberger: [Laughs]… I don’t know if it was disappointing. If anyone ever says they’re disappointed to get drafted that’s a pretty big deal. I was just happy to be there [in New York] and have the opportunity to get to the NFL. To me it didn’t matter if I was the first pick or the last pick. I wasn’t disappointed at all.
CS: So, looking back, being the last one in the green room doesn’t bother you too much these days since you’ve proven your worth in the league. I guess good things come to those who wait?
Roethlisberger: Yeah, it was just a wait; I was just waiting. I wasn’t concerned. I wasn’t worried about it. I was just waiting to see what was going to happen. It worked out pretty well for me.
CS: It sure did work out well for you. Talk about what it was like to be thrown into the fire so soon as a rookie - after Tommy Maddox went down with an injury during the second game of the 2004 season - and to enjoy the amount of success you experienced.
Roethlisberger: [Laughs]… It was a whirlwind; everything was just crazy. Coming in as a rookie is tough enough, but having to start and being the quarterback was even tougher. It was a tough situation, my head was spinning, but it was a great experience. I was just trying to wrap my head around it and try to figure out what was going on. I didn’t even know about the success, because I was so worried about the next week and what was going on; I was just trying to understand everything.
CS: How did the veterans on the team accept you as the team’s starting quarterback?
Roethlisberger: It was slow at first. Any time you’re a rookie playing it’s going to be slow, because guys don’t know what to expect from you. But you have to slowly earn their trust, and you get that by leading by example.
In just his second NFL season, Roethlisberger leads the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship.
Harry How/Getty Images
CS: And I guess you earned their trust by leading them to a 15 – 1 record and an AFC Championship game berth as a rookie. And in your second season, you continued to instill trust into your team by leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship. What was it like to have that much success so early?
Roethlisberger: It was great. Obviously that’s every kid’s dream to play in and win a Super Bowl, and for me to win it so early in my career it was truly a blessing.
CS: That Super Bowl championship had to feel special. You were able to convince Jerome Bettis to stick it out for one more year, and you even promised him if he did that he would be awarded with a ring. Entering the 2005 season, did you just have a feeling that it was going to be a special year?
Roethlisberger: It was a great year; a great experience. Everything was unbelievable from our position in the playoffs, to going on the road and winning everything, to having the Super Bowl in Detroit [Bettis’ hometown] and winning it for Jerome; it was just a great feeling.
CS: Like I said, you’ve had some ups and downs over your career, and winning the Super Bowl was your ultimate high, but your ultimate low occurred on the morning of June 12, 2006. I live in Philadelphia, and I remember listening to Sports Radio 610 WIP earlier in the morning on that day, and you were being interviewed; I believe it was for a Campbell Soup promotion. Then just a few hours later, it was reported that you were in a serious motorcycle accident. Can you tell me about the events leading up to that incident?
Roethlisberger: You know, I remember a lot of different things about it. I remember doing those interviews in the morning, and then I decided to go work out. I was on my way to go work out, and it was pandemonium basically for the next year.
After being involved in a scary motorcycle accident, Roethlisberger’s bike sits on a tow truck.
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
CS: Do you remember much about the accident at all?
Roethlisberger: A little bit, not a lot though.
CS: Do you ever think about different ways you could have avoided that accident from occurring, or is it something that just happened, and you’re happy it turned out the way it did?
Roethlisberger: It’s just something that happened.
CS: I heard you say that a paramedic told you that you were about a minute away from death. What went through your mind when you were told that?
Roethlisberger: [Pause]… Just to be thankful that I’m alive, you know.
CS: To go from a near tragedy to bouncing back and playing 15 games that same season was quite an accomplishment. But some wondered if you would ever be the same. How tough was the 2006 season for you and the team as a whole?
Roethlisberger: That was a tough year trying to rebound and having a bull’s eye on our chest from the Super Bowl. We had a lot of injuries, and we were trying to figure things out. It was a learning year, we went .500, and we learned a lot about ourselves, and I learned a lot about myself.
CS: What did you learn about yourself from that season, especially dealing with the adversity you faced bouncing back from the accident?
Roethlisberger: I learned that you’re going to have up and down years. You can’t let it bother you and affect you or change who you are.
CS: How much did it shock you to come back from the accident so fast and compete week after week?
Roethlisberger: It was a blessing to be out there and to play. It really felt awesome to be out on the field. I really felt healthy enough to be out there and perform.
CS: This season, you lose your best offensive lineman in Alan Faneca. What does that do to your offensive line, and what does losing him mean to you personally?
Roethlisberger: Well, it’s tough to lose a Pro Bowler like that, a leader on our team and a leader on our offense. But you have to have guys to step up, and I have to step up as a leader.
Roethlisberger pictured at Steelers mini-camp on May 2, 2008.
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
CS: During the off-season, you made some comments about wanting a tall receiver to throw to, and a lot was said about those comments. Hines Ward made some unfavorable remarks about your comments, but in the end the Steelers went out and drafted a tall receiver in Texas’ Limas Sweed. They also got a running back, Rashard Mendenhall, to mix in with Willie Parker. You have a lot of playmakers on offense now, so what are your feelings about what this team can do on the offensive side of the ball?
Roethlisberger: I feel like we have a great offense. We have a great group of guys back; some veterans and some young guys on the offensive line who I think will be great. I have a lot of confidence, and I’m really excited about this team.
CS: How is your relationship with Hines Ward after those comments were made?
Roethlisberger: It was nothing. We have a great relationship; everything was blown out of proportion as it usually is.
CS: Do you think it was blown out of proportion because of the way the media portrays everything?
Roethlisberger: Yeah, I think so. Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
CS: Obviously winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal every year, but what are your expectations for this season?
Roethlisberger: Well, our goal is to win the Super Bowl, but you can’t do that without winning one game. We are going to come out and feel as though we’re going to have a great year. We’ll see what happens.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.