Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addresses the media during his conference call on Wednesday, November 26, 2008.
Q: What are your thoughts about how your team has been playing lately and also about going up against the Patriots who have put together a couple impressive games?
BR: I think we went through—as most teams do, you go through some ups and downs. We can talk about it, the Patriots can talk about it; most teams can. You get hot for a moment and then maybe you go through a slide, some bad games. In this league it's all about when do you get hot. I think both the Patriots and us are playing very good football right now and I think that's why this is going to be a great matchup.
Q: Can you talk about Matt Cassel stepping in for Tom Brady and what he's done so far?
BR: I love it. I've always taken the underdog role, and I think when he came in—and you always have a special spot in your heart for quarterbacks because you know what they go through. But, when he came in and early on, people started talking bad about him. They started talking about 'oh boy, how much we miss Tom'—and I'm sure they do miss Tom because he's something special. But, for him [Cassel] to put up the numbers and to play and win football games, I've really enjoyed it just for the fact that people thought he couldn't do it and he's been doing it.
Q: You mentioned missing Tom, but the Patriots are also missing a lot players on defense—Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas. Does the Patriots defense look different to you—maybe more vulnerable that it has been in the past?
BR: I think the difference is just the names. Like you said, the names aren't there that we were used to seeing in the past. They're still doing a lot of the same things. They're still running around. They're still moving, and you know what, they're the New England Patriots. They are who they are for a reason and they're very talented. They're just going to be a challenge for us—maybe one of the biggest challenges of the year for us.
Q: Can you talk about how tight the AFC is right now?
BR: This is that stretch of the year that you can't afford to split. You've got to play great football. This is when the veterans need to step up and the rookies need to see what it's about. Because the AFC is so tight, so many teams are separated by a game or half a game, or two games, you really can't afford to have that lull right now. That's why this game is so important to us as I'm sure it is to the Patriots as well.
Q: With the injuries your offense has had, has the last few months been sort of a growth process?
BR: I think the whole line is one of those special positions that you kind of need to have some cohesiveness; you need to know who's to your right and to your left. When you're rotating guys in and out it can be tough at times. But, we've had that same group of guys in there for the last couple weeks now and they're really starting to understand and know each other, and I think their play is reflecting that. Of course we miss the other guys, but in this league people have to step up and be ready to play and those guys up front have really answered the call and I'm proud of them.
Q: How different is it for you this year with the running game not being statistically up to what it was in the past?
BR: I think my stats aren't as up to par as I'd want them and they have been, and the running game—and I think our offense, we have kind of struggled throughout the year at times. But like I said, it's about when you get hot and when do you start to put things together. The last couple of weeks we've done a pretty good job offensively of scoring points and not turning the ball over and we just need to continue to do that.
Q: Can you talk about Heath Miller and what a weapon he is?
BR: Oh yeah. It was good to have him back last week and [make] him a part of the game. He's always good to have back on the field.
Q: What are your impressions of Wes Welker?
BR: [He's] pretty impressive. Just from watching him in the games and watching him on film, he's just a guy that seems like he's always in the right spot. He's always a bailout. He's kind of a combination of the running back check down, the tight end over the middle and slot receivers matching up on linebackers, so I think he brings so much to the table.
Q: How tough was it for you mentally to get through that streak of games where your numbers were probably worse than they've ever been?
BR: Well, it's the position that we play. You see every quarterback go through it at some point in a season or in their career. It's just something that you've got to push through. Like they say in basketball, when you're missing and you're not hitting anything, the best way to get out of the funk is to shoot your way out of it. You've just got to keep pressing forward and that's the biggest key.
Q: How different for you that first year as a starter when it came time for the playoffs? Was it a different animal?
BR: I mean, I was dead. You hit that wall and your heads spinning. You're not really sure what's going on. You're kind of running on fumes at that time, so it definitely affected me later in the year.
Q: What were your thoughts when Tom Brady went out and Matt Cassel came in?
BR: Well, Matt Cassel has been there for a while and he knows that system and it was just going to be a matter of time until he got his legs underneath him and felt comfortable out there.
Q: When a guy throws back-to-back 400 yard games, doesn't it make you think he's progressing faster than you would have imagined?
BR: Well, I'll tell you what, I'm not going to take anything away from him. I think he's a phenomenal quarterback, like I said before, and back-to-back 400 yard games, that's awesome. And nothing against Matt Cassel, but I don't think Tom is really worried about his job; I mean, it's Tom Brady. But he's doing an awesome job and that's what they've asked him to do and that's what he's done.
Q: The Patriots pass rush hasn't generated as many sacks as it did last year and Mike Vrabel is way down from 12 last year to 3 this year. Are they rushing Vrabel as much as they did last year or is he maybe playing a different role?
BR: That's a question you'd have to ask them—but it seems like they are using him in a lot of different areas, rushing. You know, he's a very heady player; he's very smart. He knows how to stop the run, he knows how to cover in coverage [and] he knows how to rush the passer. He's a Pro-Bowl caliber guy. Numbers are numbers, it's not about that, and I'm sure he'll tell you the same thing.
Q: As a quarterback, is he one of the guys you always want to know where he is to get a sense of what they're playing?
BR: Oh, I'll definitely know where he's at.
Q: How different will it be for you, as a quarterback, to not see Asante Samuel out there in the secondary?
BR: There're a lot of guys that they have [that are] injured. It's like I'm not seeing Adalius [Thomas] out there. I'm not seeing Rodney Harrison. It's just—guys fill in. We've seen them fill in on our team and guys fill in, in the NFL. The guys they have back there will do a phenomenal job, I'm sure, of filling in.
Q: What impresses you about your defense?
BR: Pretty much everything: to see them fly around, to see them confuse, to see them blitz, to see them stop the run. Coach always says 'give them a blade of grass, they'll defend it' and sometimes that's true. You give them a short field and they find a way to hold them to three points, so it's just impressive to watch our defense.
Q: What goes through your mind when a teammate pretty much guarantees a win?
BR: What goes through my mind? I don't know. Did one of us do it again?
Q: Same one.
BR: Same guy did it again? No. I don't know, to tell you the truth. You won't hear me do it. I don't know.
Q: Can you talk about playing with Hines Ward?
BR: Yeah, he really is. I've been blessed to be able to play with Hines now for five years. He's made me a lot better quarterback. Just the understanding and the level that we are on now, I think you'll see us communicating a lot better. You'll see us on the same page more than we've ever been, just because it's been five years together and we understand each other.
Q: What can you tell us about Mewelde Moore?
BR: Well, I think Mo is a great running back. I think he's very good out of the backfield. I think he's good at picking up the blitzes and he's run the ball very well. I think he's a great compliment to Willie Parker and he's filled well when Willie's hurt.