PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger is less than two weeks away from his 21st playoff game and 10th postseason berth of his career, and yet he said he still feels as much excitement as he ever did.
No more retirement talk -- for now.
Roethlisberger, 35, admitted it's been a long time since he won a Super Bowl. It's been nine seasons since the Steelers beat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Pittsburgh is 5-5 in postseason games since then, including a loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
That's all the motivation he needs.
"I know I still get excited. I think you can afford to get excited," Roethlisberger said. "You should never take these moments for granted. I remember hearing that my first year here by some of the veteran guys that hadn’t been there in a while. 'Don’t take it for granted, embrace it,' all that stuff.
"I don’t know that you fully appreciate it, then you go back the next year, and I’ve had the opportunity to go. But like I said, the ultimate goal is the Super Bowl and it’s been a while since I’ve gotten one of those, so that’s motivating."
The Steelers have a first-round bye in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Although Roethlisberger recently said he would like to face the Jaguars again after throwing five interceptions against them in their last meeting, he's happy just to be in this spot, regardless of what opponent they draw.
"The ultimate goal is obviously the Super Bowl, and in order to get there, you’ve got to get to the playoffs. I’ve said many times ... doesn’t matter what seed you come in, anybody can get there, anybody can do it. Just to get here is an honor because you think of all the teams that aren’t here and aren’t getting this opportunity. I just feel blessed to have an opportunity."
The Steelers are sticking to their usual schedule this week, and as Roethlisberger prepared for practice, he recalled back to his first two seasons, where he helped lead the Steelers to his first Super Bowl win when he was just 23.
"It was all kind of a whirlwind at the time," he said. "That whole kind of back-third or quarter of the season, you know that rookie wall is real. And you’re hitting it and you’re feeling it. At that moment you’re riding the wave of the veterans, you’re riding the wave of emotion and just trying to win one more game."
Roethlisberger hinted at a potential retirement after the Steelers' loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last season but decided to return. He's been mum about any potential retirement talk lately, and when asked if a Super Bowl win would make a decision easier, he said he wasn't thinking about that now.
"Well, we have a long way to go before we win a Super Bowl. I’m just focusing on the first game," he said.