Ben Roethlisberger said he and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ veterans called a players only meeting following Monday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. But Roethlisberger made it clear it wasn’t to address the three-game losing skid the team is on. Roethlisberger said the goal was to get the young players on the team ready for the playoffs.
“It had nothing to do with the losses,” he said via the team website. “It had everything to do with where we are and where we’re going. We’re getting ready to go into the playoffs.”
Of course, where the Steelers are isn’t a great position to be. An 11-3 record is something most fans would’ve easily accepted in Week One. But the Steelers are playing their worst ball of the season over the final quarter of the season, coming to a head in an ugly defeat to a two-win Bengals’ team that was supposed to function as Pittsburgh’s “get right” game.
Roethlisberger reiterated the mission was to make rookies and those who haven’t been to the postseason before realize how important the next couple of weeks are going to be.
“I had the guys raise their hand. Who’s played in a playoff game? Who hasn’t? And it was over half the guys haven’t played in a playoff game. So it’s important that veteran guys and guys that have [been to the playoffs] communicate what it’s like and appreciate it.”
Of the players currently on the Steelers’ roster, here’s a list of ones who have never been to the playoffs.
Ulysses Gilbert III
That list is predictably, and exclusively, made up of players who’ve been in the leagues for three years or less. But it’s 25 players, almost half the current roster, as Roethlisberger said. So there’s plenty of youth, and players in key roles, about to make their postseason debut and break the Steelers’ playoff drought. This will be their first playoff game since 2017, a one-and-done shootout loss to Jacksonville.
Roethlisberger told reporters he used a former Steelers’ coach as an example of how fleeting the postseason – and Super Bowls – can be.
“I hate to throw him out there like that, but we used Mike Munchak as an example, a guy that spent 30+ years in the NFL playing and coaching and was only a part of one Super Bowl. So just wanted guys to understand and to reiterate how important this time of year is and that the playoffs aren’t guaranteed to anybody.”
Roethlisberger himself was spoiled by immediate success. He led the Steelers to a 15-1 record his rookie year and trip to the AFC Title Game. The next year, he won a Super Bowl. The road got tougher after that. And he’s still the only player in that locker room to own a Super Bowl ring.
Though “players-only meeting” has an obvious, negative connotation to it, Roethlisberger tried to make it crystal clear the focus was on the big picture. Not the recent losses.
“So it wasn’t a players only panic meeting. Make sure people keep writing that. This is a meeting that we felt was necessary moving forward going into the postseason.”