After the ‘surreal’ Heinz finale, Ben prepares for the Ravens

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PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger finally started coming back to earth two days after an emotional victory Monday night in what was likely to be his last game at Heinz Field.

“You probably will not do that until today,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said Wednesday morning. “Tuesday was still pretty special. You get up and you realize what this week is. It’s Baltimore week. It makes it fun.”

Roethlisberger, who told reporters last week that “all signs” pointed to the 26-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns being his last home game, said he was overwhelmed by the number of people reaching out to share messages with him as he prepares for his fight. likely retiring from the organization after 18 years as the Steelers’ franchise quarterback.

“Surreal. My family and I just felt so much love and we felt so grateful for all the fans, former teammates, all the many, many notes that were written on social media, the lyrics we got, calls,” he said. he. “It’s really hard to put into words. Like I said after the match, I wish I could bottle it up and keep it forever. I think one of the most special things about that night is that “My children are old enough to remember it. It was something I will cherish and remember forever, and I think they will too. I can not say enough thanks to everyone who made that night so special.”

For Roethlisberger, the win against the Browns was reminiscent of Jerome Bettis’ hometown victory in the Super Bowl XL, which hosted Detroit, in his last game as Steeler.

“It was magical what happened Monday night,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m sure Jerome would tell you the same thing. Just the magic knows how to end things. Obviously we have another match, but when we talk about that home game, it was against Cleveland, which is as close to my hometown as you can get AFC North, a team we’ve played so many times, at Heinz Field.

“I’m so grateful to everyone, all my teammates who flocked to it and had a little extra something. I was just so proud and grateful to Naj [Najee Harris] and the way I played and finished that match for us. “

After receiving a long ovation after the match on Monday, Roethlisberger met his family in front of the tunnel and hugged his children and wife before walking arm-in-arm with them off the field.

“For them to know and understand what’s going on, it’s pretty cool,” Roethlisberger said. “My youngest is 5. I do not remember much from when I was 5, but there is probably one or two things that we can all remember from when we were really young. I really believe and hope it is one of the things I know the eldest will, and my daughter will, that in order that they may understand what the father did, and that they may fight and compete and win and give all that I have, I hope it is something, they understand and will also be passed on to them. “

Before walking through the tunnel with his family, Roethlisberger circled around part of Heinz Field, where he shot loudly with fans and sucked himself into the electric atmosphere created by fans to his farewell.

This week, however, Roethlisberger is not planning the same kind of farewell to the crowd at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium after his last game of the regular season.

“Not unless [Terrell] Suggs wants to be with me, “he said with a laugh.

The Steelers (8-7-1) still have an outside chance to get into the playoffs, but must beat division rival Ravens (8-8) to keep the slim hope alive. Pittsburgh activated six players from the reserve / COVID-19 list ahead of the season finale on Wednesday: offensive tackle Zach Banner, linebacker Devin Bush, defensive back Arthur Maulet, running back Anthony McFarland Jr., linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive end Chris Wormley.

For Cam Heyward, the key to avoiding the emotional hangovers from Monday’s victory is to continue celebrating Roethlisberger.

“After the last game, it just has to be another farewell tour for Ben,” Heyward said Wednesday. “We have to keep playing. I don’t think there are going to be many physical demands during the week, but we have to be our best on Sunday.”

At an appropriate moment in full circle, Roethlisberger’s likely last NFL game will come at the same spot where he got his first start in 2004 when he replaced an injured Tommy Maddox. The Steelers lost that week 2 game 30-13, but it was Roethlisberger’s only regular season loss as a rookie. He completed 12 of 20 attempts on 176 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“The first game I ever played in the NFL was there,” he said. “And that was Ed Reed and [Haloti] Ngata, Suggs, [Ray] Lewis. One could go down a whole list of guys, and so it was never very fun to play those guys. I think it’s a lot of respect and it’s going to be pretty cool. “

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