Friday, July 25, 2014

Ben Roethlisberger eyes prize above deal

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger takes part in minicamp on the South Side.(Matt Freed, Post-Gazette)
In Ben Roethlisberger's perfect world, he gets a rich contract extension before the NFL season opens Sept. 7 at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns and another world championship when it ends Feb. 1 in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. But if he had to choose between the two, he would take another ring, No. 3, for his big right hand. That is the competitor inside him. Roethlisberger reports today to Saint Vincent College for Steelers training camp and the start of his second decade as the team's quarterback. If that doesn't make you feel old, nothing will. Roethlisberger knows he's fairly deep into the back nine of his football career. Now, more than ever, he is driven by wins and championships. The money is going to come, anyway.
"I like where we are as a team. I really do," Roethlisberger said. "I have a really good feeling about this season."
OK, so Roethlisberger isn't going to say he expects the Steelers to stink. There's just no way. But they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons. So is Roethlisberger dreaming or is his optimism legitimate? The opinion here is it's completely legitimate. The Steelers are capable of going 11-5 -- maybe better -- and winning the AFC North Division.
Although the defense is young in spots, it also is much quicker and should be much better than the overmatched unit that last season, on its worst day and the worst in franchise history, gave up 55 points and 610 yards in an embarrassing loss against the New England Patriots. The offense -- Roethlisberger's no-huddle offense -- has a chance to be dynamite. It was fairly explosive in the second half of last season when it helped the team average more than 28 points per game. Who knows what would have happened if Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop had made the 41-yard field goal to beat the San Diego Chargers on the final Sunday and nudge the Steelers into the postseason? Their offense was good enough to win a playoff game, maybe two. It should be even better this season.

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