Roethlisberger stressed that the meeting of mostly offensive players was had to "express where we are and what we need to do moving forward," according to Steelers.com's Teresa Varley. Roethlisberger said the meeting also included veteran players speaking to the team's younger players about the significance of playoff football. The Steelers, despite losing their last three games, have already clinched a spot in the 2020 playoffs. They can win their first AFC North title since 2017 with a win over the Colts Sunday at Heinz Field.
"We're getting ready to go into the playoffs," said Roethlisberger, who in two weeks will make his 22nd playoff start. "I had the guys raise their hands of who has played in a playoff game and who hasn't. It was over half the guys that haven't played in a playoff game. It's important the veteran guys, the guys that have, communicate what it's like."
Roethlisberger used Mike Munchak, a former Steelers assistant coach and Hall of Fame left guard during his 12 years with the Oilers, as an example when stressing the significance of Pittsburgh's current opportunity.
"A guy that spent 30-plus years in the NFL playing and coaching and was only a part of one Super Bowl," Roethlisberger said of Munchak, who is currently serving as the Broncos' offensive line coach. "I just wanted guys to understand and to reiterate how important this time of year is."
While Roethlisberger and offensive teammates Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, and David DeCastro are non strangers to the postseason, fellow offensive teammates Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, James Conner, Benny Snell, and Matt Feilver have never played in a playoff game. JuJu Smith-Schuster has played in just one playoff game: Pittsburgh's 2017 divisional round upset loss to the Jaguars. Tight end Eric Ebron played in four playoff games during his time with the Lions and Colts.
Before they begin the postseason, the Steelers first have to face a 10-4 Colts team that boasts the league's fifth-best run defense. The Colts' defense is led by Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard (109 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles), and defensive linemen DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry, and Justin Houston, who each have tallied 7.5 sacks entering Sunday's game. Pittsburgh's offense is looking to rebound after scoring just 19, 17, 15, and 17 points over their past four games.
Roethlisberger said that he also understands some of the outside criticism directed at him following his recent performances. A league MVP candidate at the start of December, Roethlisberger has thrown nearly as interceptions (five) as he has touchdown passes (six) over the past four games. After throwing two interceptions (including a pick-six) in Pittsburgh's Week 14 loss in Buffalo, Roethlisberger completed just 53% of his throws in Monday night's 27-17 loss to the Bengals.
"When you play like poo, you should get talked about like that," Roethlisberger said. "I need to play better. If I'm not giving them a reason to talk good, then I'm giving them a reason to talk badly. That's all on me. I need to play better."