In 2014, after the Green Bay Packers started 1-2, starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers went on his weekly radio show and said: “Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land today: R-E-L-A-X…. Relax. We’re going to be okay.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a similar message for Steelers fans, who are increasingly anxious after a two-game losing streak in the wake of a franchise-best 11-0 start.
“The season’s not over. I want everyone out there … to take a deep breath,” said Roethlisberger during his virtual press conference. “I know it’s kinda crazy right now, but take a deep breath, we’ve got time [to turn things around].”
Indeed, the Steelers have three more regular season games to get back on the right track before postseason play gets underway, which Roethlisberger described as “Pre-Postseason Work.”
Of course, Roethlisberger can characterize the rest of the season as “Pre-Postseason” because Pittsburgh has already clinched a playoff berth—and can win the AFC North in Week 15 with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, or a Cleveland Browns loss to the New York Giants (or a tie on the part of both the Steelers and Browns).
Ben Roethlisberger on His Message to Teammates
Asked by Mark Kaboly of The Athletic what he is telling his teammates in the wake of the two-game losing streak, Roethlisberger said:
“It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got three games left in the regular season. We have guaranteed ourselves a chance in the playoffs. We’re in the postseason. We have three weeks now to get it going, to turn it around, to give ourselves our best chance to reach our ultimate goal, which is winning the Super Bowl.”
The longtime Steelers quarterback did admit that if the postseason was starting tomorrow, “maybe there would be a little more panic on our part,” a la, “we’ve got to get something figured out right now.”
But the team has a chance to round into form while playing a division rival in the Cincinnati Bengals, and then two teams that are almost certain to be in the postseason in the Indianapolis Colts (9-4) and Cleveland Browns (9-4).
“So that’s what I reiterate to these guys is we still have some work to do to get ourselves out of the lull we are in. Every team has them, it just so happens that ours is happening right now. But it’s not too late for us,” he concluded.
Steelers to Enjoy a Normal Week of Practice
It doesn’t hurt, either, that the next game on Pittsburgh’s schedule is against the Bengals, who are 2-10-1 (0-4 in the AFC North) and have lost the services of No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Washington on November 22nd.
Never mind the fact that Roethlisberger was AFC Offensive Player of the Week the last time the Steelers went against the Bengals. Or that Cincinnati’s exceptionally weak offensive line is particularly vulnerable to Pittsburgh’s pass rush, with the latter having recorded a league-leading 45 sacks and the Bengals second-worst in the NFL in sacks allowed with 46.
Other factors would seem to work in Pittsburgh’s favor as well. For example, with the game not until Monday night, the Steelers get a full week of practice for the first time in many weeks, which probably seems like a luxury after playing three games in 12 days.
“It’s nice, the way we’ve installed things this week have been at a normal pace instead of throwing in all the third down and all the Red Zone on one day, or whatever it might be,” noted Roethlisberger. “So to kind of have that bonus day to add things at a slower pace has been pretty nice.”
With more than a week between games, it also gives Roethlisberger a chance to get healthier than he has been in recent weeks. In fact, on Wednesday he indicated that his throwing arm and knee feel “pretty good,” in contrast to the runup to the Washington game, when he missed all of the team’s practices because of an ailing knee.
If nothing else, Roethlisberger figures to do everything he can to get the Steelers a few wins prior to the postseason, as this team is likely his best—and perhaps last—chance to get back to the Super Bowl.
“I will go out there this week and give it everything I have to get this team on track because I feel it’s a special team,” he concluded.
No doubt Aaron Rodgers did much the same in 2014, when the Green Bay Packers lost just two more regular season games after Rodgers encouraged everyone to R-E-L-A-X. The 12-4 Packers went on to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs before finally falling to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
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