If you’re a quarterback and you don’t have a close relationship with your offensive linemen, then you’re probably doing something wrong. Pretty much literally, you’re trusting your health and safety to the notion of the five men in front of you being competent at their jobs, so you want to give them every reason to want to keep you upright.
That’s a lesson that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was able to learn very early on in his career. He has always loved his offensive linemen—frankly, even when they weren’t any good. He gave them a shoutout from a Super Bowl podium a dozen years ago in a year in which they were heavily criticized for their performance, saying, ‘who’s laughing now?’.
Nobody from that line is still in the league, but he has several linemen remaining with whom he has had a long relationship. Ramon Foster retired before the season started, but Maurkice Pouncey, their 2010 first-round pick, is his right-hand man. David DeCastro has been here since 2012, and Alejandro Villanueva since 2014. Matt Feiler has also been here since 2015. He has strong bonds with all of them.
“Those are the guys that I play for. I love those guys, have been around those guys the longest. Pounce, Dave, Al, and obviously the other guys”, Roethlisberger told reporters after the game. “It means the world to me. If you ever watch, every touchdown, I don’t ever run down to celebrate with the receivers or the tight ends or the running backs. I celebrate with those guys, because without them, none of it is possible, and they just mean so much to me. I want to win games, a championship, for them”.
While he has a couple of Super Bowl rings for himself, his linemen do not. He wasn’t able to get Foster one before he retired, but there is still a chance for the rest. This may be Villanueva’s last season in Pittsburgh as he hits free agency in March, however.
The linemen have spoken for the past year or so about their growing understanding of the fact that their time is short. All three players that Roethlisberger mentioned by name are on the wrong side of 30s, and may only have a couple of years left in the league. If they are going to win a Super Bowl, it has to happen pretty soon.
And they might not have a better shot at it by the time that they call it a career than they do right now in 2020. This is far from a perfect Steelers team, but it’s been enough to win 12 games and lock up the division with a game left to play.