PITTSBURGH — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked all preseason about how excited and refreshed he was to start his 16th NFL season with something of a new start after the departures of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown re-set the Steelers’ offensive skill positions.
The came the team’s opener, 33-3 loss to New England in which the Steelers struggled to move the ball on offense. It was the kind of loss that has certainly let the air out of the Steelers’ fanbase early in the season.
Has the level of excitement changed any for Roethlisberger as the team prepares to face another tough defense in Seattle during Week 2.
“No,” Roethlisberger said matter-of-factly while speaking with media before practice on Wednesday.
“Not at all.”
That shouldn’t be a total surprise. As the team’s most experienced leader, Roethlisberger knows that he needs to keep the team focused on the task at hand. He’s also been a part of more than one season that didn’t have a good start and turned out just fine. In 2015, the script was very similar, when the Steelers opened with a loss at New England. That year, they finished 10-6.
“It’s one game,” Roethlisberger said. “We played the best team in football at their place. We’ve just got a game this week and we’re excited about it.”
That’s the message that he’s trying to instill on his young teammates, as well.
“I told the guys on Monday when we came in here, we were out doing our run and stuff, I said, ‘Guys, look up. The sun is still shining. The sky is still blue. The best thing is that we still get to play on Sunday.’ A few years ago, we started 0-4, I believe. It’s a long season. Half the teams lost their first game.”
So far, he hasn’t seen anyone with their heads down over the Week 1 loss.
“Not at all,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect it. If we had guys that were down and out and calling it quits, we’d have a lot bigger issues. Guys realize what Week 1 was and we’re going to Week 2.”
Of course if the Steelers don’t play better than the do going forward, there will be a lot more Week 1’s in their future. Roethlisberger said it’s more about fine-tuning details than making big-picture changes. He was careful not to criticize his receivers, but the team had three official drops and several others that could have been caught.
Roethlisberger can be better. The play calling, which he did allude to, can be better. The receivers can certainly be better.
While that leads to disappointment when it comes to their level of play against the Patriots, it also leads to a sense of knowing what needs to be done to make it right going forward.
Steelers Connections Abound in Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl
While the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their Super Bowl LV hopes dashed two weeks ago, fans will recognize plenty of familiar faces when the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet on Feb. 7.
Six players with Steelers ties are expected to take the field in either red or pewter on Super Bowl Sunday, with the two most notable examples being Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and Kansas City running back Le’Veon Bell.
Both missed their respective championship games due to injury, but could return to health in time for the Super Bowl with two weeks to recover.
In addition, the Chiefs also boast guard Stefen Wisniewski and punter Dustin Colquitt, who both spent time in Pittsburgh earlier this season.
Wisniewski is in line to make his second-straight Super Bowl start in response to injuries along the Chiefs’ offensive line suffered Sunday, while Colquitt is on Kansas City’s practice squad.
Former Steelers defensive back Ross Cockrell and nose tackle Steve McLendon will take the field for the Buccaneers defensively.
But Tampa Bay’s Pittsburgh connections do not stop on the field, as the Buccaneers will also have six coaches with Steeler ties on the sideline for the big game, including head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians, who is in his second season in Tampa, spent eight years in Pittsburgh, serving as wide receivers coach (2004-06) before being elevated to offensive coordinator (2007-11).
Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played under Arians in Pittsburgh, and had three separate stints with the Steelers as a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger.
Tampa Bay also boasts assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin, outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El and assistant coach Tom Moore.
Even with the Steelers at home watching along with the rest of the country, Pittsburgh should have no shortage of rooting interests when the Chiefs meet the Buccaneers in Tampa in two weeks time.
Report: Steelers OL Coach Candidate Hank Fraley Retained in Detroit
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Hank Fraley will reportedly be retained as the Detroit Lions’ offensive line coach, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett.
Some good news for Lions fans still coming to grips with the news Matthew Stafford likely will be playing elsewhere in 2021:— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) January 24, 2021
Respected OL coach Hank Fraley will be back with the team, and Dave Fipp could be joining him as ST coach now that the Eagles are letting him interview.
Pittsburgh reportedly interviewed Fraley last Thursday for their offensive line coach vacancy, but he has opted to remain with Detroit under new head coach Dan Campbell.
Fraley was a standout at Robert Morris before signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2000. He was waived prior to the season, but played ten seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams. Fraley has spent the last two seasons as Detroit’s offensive line coach.
Pittsburgh’s search for their next offensive coordinator and line coach continues. The Steelers chose not to retain Randy Fichtner and Shaun Sarrett earlier this month.
Report: Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey Has Told Teammates He’ll Retire
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has told teammates that he will retire, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Former Steelers guard Ramon Foster, now of DK Pittsburgh Sports, reported on Jan. 12 that Pouncey was “50-50” on whether he would return for the 2021 season.
The 31-year-old Pouncey just finished his 11th season in the NFL, all of which have been with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has one year remaining on his contract, which would pay him $14.475 million if he returns. Just $6.475 million of that is guaranteed. The Steelers would save $8 million in cap space if he retires.
Pouncey made the Pro Bowl for the ninth time in 2020 and has also been a five-time Associated Press All-Pro. He was also a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team, largely giving him Hall of Fame credentials.\