The Steelers are getting older. They are coming off a season where they missed the playoffs, and they had two key losses (Mike Wallace and James Harrison) this offseason. Many people are starting to wonder whether this is the year when it all catches up to Pittsburgh. Not as long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and playing quarterback. That’s what was missing last season in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t get the same kind of attention as some of the other top signal-callers in the game like the Mannings, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. But he is that important to the success of the franchise. So write off the Steelers at your own risk. As long as Roethlisberger is around, so to will be the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger joined 93.7 the Fan in Pittsburgh with Vinnie and Cookto talk about the decision to keep Emmanuel Sanders, the loss of Mike Wallace, the importance of Heath Miller, the pressure on him to get back to the playoffs, how much losing James Harrison will hurt, if he feels there was a lack of leadership last year and what he makes of people thinking the Steelers are done.
On keeping Emmanuel Sanders:
“I think Emmanuel is a good player. I think he is a great player for us and I’m glad he is back. I really am. There have been talks about, ‘Get rid of him.’ Or, ‘Take the third-round pick.’ But from my perspective and my point of view, he is a good football player and he’s valuable to this football team. I’m happy to have him back.”
On the loss of Mike Wallace:
“We had good chemistry. I’m going to miss him as a person and as a teammate. He is a great locker room guy who always brought a smile to your face because he was fun, because he was funny. Really going to miss him. But on the field, he was something special. He really was. People don’t realize how important it is to have a guy with his ability on the football field and the guy who is probably going to notice it the most right from the get-go is Antonio Brown. Safeties have to respect Mike’s speed. Cornerbacks and the defense are scheming to stop Mike Wallace going deep. It opens up other receivers, so to lose a guy like that is really going to be tough for all of us.”
On the importance of Heath Miller:
“He’s been my MVP vote very year since he has been here. That’s what I think of Heath Miller. That’s how key he is to this team, to me. He is something special. It hurt so bad to see him get hurt. It hurt me more as a person than it did on the football field because of what Heath is.”
On the pressure on him to get back to the playoffs:
“No one is going to be more critical on me than me. No matter how hard Cookie tries to get on me. But the pressure and being critical, I’m always going to put that on myself. That’s the thing that everyone is saying, but this is the earliest I’ve come to these voluntary workouts. I was here Day One. I have been working out for a long time. Seven days after the last game, I started working out. I’ve been working out. I’m in great shape. But I wanted to be there. I want those guys to see me. I want those guys to know that I want to be the guy this year that is ready to go and lead these guys. I put that pressure on myself. I want to get us back to the Super Bowl.”
On the loss of James Harrison:
“Well, you lose one of the best defensive players in the game. He was nasty and he was fun to watch. As a quarterback on your team, he was fun to watch. Every pass play, you just felt like this could be the play where he was going to get a sack, a sack-fumble or anything. It’s definitely going to be different with him not around, if he’s not going to be around. I don’t really know what is going on. I don’t have any insight for you. I’m sorry. It definitely will be different without him around. There were times when James was fun and laughing, and it’s going to be a different locker room. This is a chance, I guess, for young guys to step up and see what they can do. Big shoes to fill though.”
Did you sense a lack of leadership last year?
“No, I did not. I think it was different. I think you lose guys that are veteran guys, that are leaders, that have been around, but we still had great leadership. We had great leadership on the team last year, and we are going to have some this year. We don’t know what our team is yet this year. We still have lots of guys to come in but that’s why it is time for younger guys like (Maurkice) Pouncey, and he has done a great job with that, Ramon Foster, but I don’t think there is any issue with leadership in our locker room. We will be just fine. We were going through a transition phase last year and to me that is what it was.”
On people saying the Steelers are in for a few tough years:
“Good. Go ahead. I guess it depends on who you ask and that is fine. I’m with people saying that we’re going to be terrible and, ‘Let’s overlook them,’ because that means our opponents are doing the same thing. I like that. I like being the hunter. It’s kind of a fun place to be. I’m OK with that.