PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger knows his team probably isn’t supposed to be here, the No. 7 seed in the playoffs preparing to face the No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs. And yet, the 39-year-old knows from experience that wild things can happen once a team gets into the postseason — no matter how it happens.
“I would assume, as a group, you understand that we probably aren’t supposed to be here. We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams I think are in, we’re probably number 14,” he said. “… We’re probably 20-point underdogs, and we’re going to the No. 1 seed, the No. 1 team. I know they’re not the No. 1 seed, obviously, but they’re the No. 1 team that has won the AFC the last two years, arguably the best team in football.
“We don’t have a chance. So, let’s just go in and play and have fun.”
The Steelers are actually 12.5-point underdogs to the Chiefs, who have played in the Super Bowl the past two seasons. The Chiefs clinched the AFC West and ensured their playoff berth three weeks ago when they beat the Steelers 36-10 in Week 16.
But for the Steelers to reach this matchup, they had to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the season finale and needed the Jacksonville Jaguars to upset the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Chargers-Las Vegas Raiders game to not end in a tie.
Late Sunday night into early Monday morning, the Steelers’ playoff hopes were on life support as the Raiders and Chargers went to overtime and were within seconds of ending in a tie. But as time expired, Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson finally pushed the Steelers to the playoffs with a game-winning field goal.
Roethlisberger watched at home, taking in the game on FaceTime with two friends, Christian music artists Bart Millard of MercyMe and TobyMac. During the Raiders’ last drive in overtime, Roethlisberger donned a too-small Raiders helmet signed by former punter Shane Lechler and former kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
I promise you, Sunday night was the only time you will ever see Ben Roethlisberger do this. pic.twitter.com/7LQhknxn2q
— Bart Millard (@BartMillard) January 12, 2022
“I wish I would’ve went to bed instead of stayed up with the stress,” Roethlisberger said. “But what a crazy, crazy game. Crazy ending. You go into the evening excited about getting in and then your hopes start to dwindle there for a little while. And then the last drive, you really think they’re going to play for the tie. But there’s other plans out there.”
Now that the Steelers are in the postseason, this playoff push seems reminiscent of the 2005 run to Super Bowl XL, when the No. 6 seed Steelers rode a wave of momentum to carry running back Jerome Bettis to a Super Bowl win before he retired.
“I wanted to go win for Jerome because you know what he meant,” Roethlisberger said. “Maybe [current Steelers teammates] feel the same way. I don’t know. It’s not like Jerome ever came to me and said, ‘Guys, let’s go win it for me.’ He didn’t have to say that. We wanted to win it for him anyway.”
To reach Super Bowl XL, the Steelers upset Peyton Manning and the No. 1-seeded Colts 21-18 after losing to them in the regular season. But Roethlisberger cautioned against drawing too many comparisons between that team and the current group.
“I don’t want to take anything away from this team, but that was a pretty good football team,” he said. “We had Hall of Famers on it and stuff. Not that we don’t have some really good football players here. We have a long way to go to compare ourselves to that team, in my opinion.
“… These guys were, what, middle school or elementary school when that was going on. … I think that team was a really good football team. And we’re not as good of a football team as we were then. But, you know, anything can happen.”