Ben Roethlisberger has a message for Pittsburgh Steelers fans who viewed last season as cause to take a header off of the Alcoa Building: Relax.
Don't misunderstand. The Steelers' quarterback wasn't happy with 8-8 and missing the playoffs, either. But 2006 wasn't the disaster, he said, that some Seven Hills devotees would have you believe.
"In my book, it's unsatisfactory for me because I want to be the best and I, obviously, want to win another Super Bowl," Roethlisberger said Tuesday at William and Mary's annual Colonial All-Pro Football Camp.
"But it wasn't a complete failure," he said. "It wasn't like we didn't win any games or something like that. It's the expectations, because of the first two years that I had, and there's also the expectations of Steeler fans. We've got so many fans around the country and they want us to win the Super Bowl every year."
Roethlisberger said that Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Jim Kelly -- Pittsburgh guys who know a thing or two about success and failure -- told him that there won't be touchdowns and parades every year.
They told him, he said, "Don't let anybody get you down, because you'll probably have a losing season, and I haven't even had one yet. There's going to be another bad season somewhere along the way. Hopefully, there's not many of them, but there's going to be some. So it's just something that you take into consideration."
Roethlisberger understands that he helped create some of the expectations. He won his first 13 starts as a rookie in 2004 and the Steelers won 27 of his first 31 games as the starter.
The former Miami of Ohio star was the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and he went to the AFC Championship game each of his first two years.
But coming off of the Steelers' fifth Super Bowl victory in 2006, Roethlisberger was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident last June. He had an emergency appendectomy the first week of the season. He suffered a concussion last October.
Last season, the Steelers got off to a 2-6 start. Roethlisberger threw seven interceptions before his first touchdown pass.
Although his passing yardage was up from his first two years -- 3,513 yards, compared with 2,385 the Super Bowl season -- he threw more interceptions (23) than touchdowns (18). His completion percentage was down several points, and his quarterback rating (75.4) was 23 points lower than each of his first two seasons.
As Roethlisberger prepares for his fourth NFL season, he and the Steelers embark on a new era, under head coach Mike Tomlin. The 35-year-old Newport News native is just the franchise's third head coach in the past 38 years, following Bill Cowher and the legendary Chuck Noll.
"I think Coach Tomlin is a good change for us," Roethlisberger said. "People always worry that change is bad. Well, I don't think change is bad in this instance. I think that Coach Tomlin is a good guy. He's really going to work hard. He's got a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement. I think that's good for us."
Tomlin was the surprise choice last January after Cowher resigned at the end of the season. Five months later, Roethlisberger bounced around the same Zable Stadium field where Tomlin starred as a William and Mary wide receiver 13 years earlier.
"From what I've seen so far -- I know it's early, we know the bullets haven't started flying yet -- so far he kind of has more fun," Roethlisberger said, comparing the two men. "He seems to smile a lot more than Coach Cowher did. Obviously Cowher had the reputation of being 'The Chin' and 'The Frown' and the scary guy all the time.
"But what I like best, and what a lot of guys do, is that he's (Tomlin) around. You see him around the offense, you see him with the quarterbacks, you see him with the tight ends, you see him with everybody and not just the defense, and I think that's important for everybody to see." *<Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun