Roethlisberger said Wednesday after the AFC squad’s Pro Bowl practice that the Steelers were focused entering their playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Anytime you lose, there’s always going to be some comments made,” Roethlisberger said. “You’ll find anything, people will. I don’t think there’s any truth to that. I think guys were focused and ready to go. We weren’t the best on that day.”
Roethlisberger said he didn’t agree with the perception that Tomlin did not inject the necessary discipline into his team for a playoff run.
“I [don’t] necessarily agree with that,” Roethlisberger said. “I think he knows how to coach us and knows how to coach each individual guy and each position, so I don’t believe in that.”
Despite a 13-3 regular season, the team came out flat in the 45-42 divisional round loss. Tomlin and players talked openly about a New England Patriots rematch that never happened, sparking a convenient story line that the team was looking ahead. A report about Le’Veon Bell showing up late to the day-before walk-through didn’t help. (Bell said his tardiness was excused for a personal matter.)
Several players have shrugged off the look-ahead narrative, saying they had two weeks to prepare for the Jaguars. The Steelers practiced in pads on the bye week but couldn’t avoid rust, on which Jacksonville capitalized with a 21-0 first-half lead.
Roethlisberger isn’t afraid to speak openly about the Steelers’ problems. He questioned the team’s discipline during a four-game losing streak in 2016 and said the Patriots “outcoached us, they outplayed us” in a 36-17 loss in last season’s AFC title game.
But he stressed that he and Tomlin have a “great” working relationship, citing their 11 years together.
“We communicate well with each other,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve been here for a long time together. I don’t know how many head coaches and quarterbacks have worked together as long together as we have. That just helps when it comes to communicating. When it comes to coaches and plays and anything like that, it’s beneficial.”
Roethlisberger — who was one of the league’s hottest quarterbacks late this season with an average of nearly 350 passing yards over his last seven games — is one of nine Steelers at the Pro Bowl, which also features Steelers coaches.
Roethlisberger is excited about working with Randy Fichtner, whom the Steelers elevated from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. The Steelers have a loaded offense returning in 2018.
“The window we have is there,” said Roethlisberger about chasing championships.