“I didn’t know what to expect – there’s a lot of football fans over here so we’re excited about that!” – Ben, during his live on-air interview.

“People say that you should never meet your heroes. These people clearly haven’t met Ben Roethlisberger.” — Josh Perry, Steelers UK fan.

Ben was a guest today on Sky Sports studio and told them he is looking forward to reporting back to teammates that there is definitely excitement across the pond for live NFL action:

AP “It was eye-opening for me to realize that there are so many fans and that the sport is growing over here…it was neat for me to see that and go home and tell my team-mates and other players that this is not going to be a business trip, we can go and enjoy a good football game.”

Ben believes that logistically, especially with family situations, having a team based out of London would be difficult, but a game or two during the regular season is a fun, different idea:

“I think it’s fun, it’s neat for players to travel abroad, to see a different country and see fans from over here.”

What does he expect the energy level of the fans to be at Wembley Stadium in September for the game against the Minnesota Vikings:

“I’ve talked to many players that have come over here in years past to play before and they say how loud it is and I’m looking forward to seeing that as well.”

You can watch the video here.

You can also read an interview with Ben conducted by Joshua Modaberi here.

And speaking of the fans…

UK fan Andy Duncan wanted to give American fans an idea of what transpired at the Meet & Greet between Ben and NFL-UK fans last evening at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London:

NFLUKTuesday evening in London, England there was a unique event put on by the NFL to promote the International Series football games that will be played during the regular season at Wembley Stadium.

Twenty six English football fans were invited to attend a meet and greet session with Ben Roethlisberger. The audience wasn’t entirely made up of Steelers fans, but as will happen in September when the Steelers play the Vikings, Steeler Nation UK were out in force.

Via the Steeler Nation UK Facebook group, many fans were encouraged to enter their names with NFL UK to ensure Ben was greeted by a friendly audience. Steeler Nation met up in Henrys Bar, Piccadilly, which will be the meeting place for Steeler fans from around the world in September the evening before the Minnesota game.

The proud sight of Steeler fans, dressed in their Ben shirts with their Terrible Towels walking the streets of London to the Grosvenor House Hotel would have a sight for English sore eyes. With a few fans of other NFL teams in the room, twenty UK Steeler fans made their entrance and overwhelmed the event with a sea of black and gold.

Ben appeared and was introduced to the fans by Neil Reynolds, Sky TV presenter. To begin the session, Neil showed a clip of Ben avoiding tackles against a Dallas defense and asked if there was any logic in what Ben was doing as he ran around the field trying to find an open receiver. Ben retorted that the first thing he intended was to try and not get hit!

BillBadger_1Saying he recalled the play, Ben continued to explain what happened against “the perfect defense” shown in the clip eventually making a completion to the ever reliable Heath Miller.

Neil suggested the improvising shown in the clip was playground football and Ben agreed, commenting that he grew up playing football in the backyard and playing in the schoolyard, “My competitiveness doesn’t allow me to just give up on a play. I can’t do it. As coaches know, we live by the sword, we die by the sword.”

Ben moved on with his talk by expressing the feelings of coming to London to play football and how excited he was to tell his teammates that, “we’re going there because we have fans there. It makes me happy, it’ll make the guys happy and I have always said the Steeler fans are the best fans in sports. We’re playing for the fans and that’s what’s exciting. It’s not just about making money for the NFL, it’s about playing for the fans.”

Looking at one of the Terrible Towels the fans were holding, Neil suggested that he shouldn’t touch it as he wasn’t a Steeler fan. Ben laughed and commented, “You can touch it. But don’t disrespect it. Don’t step on it. Just don’t do anything bad with it.”

During the question and answer session with the audience, Ben responded to questions that included his golf enthusiasm, his memories of the first game as a Steeler, the return of Heath Miller and the changing personnel, his favourite and the worst place to play (Baltimore).

Ben then moved to a flip chart to draw Xs and Os for a couple of plays that could happen on the field. Ben first joked that he would draw the whole playbook, before suggesting Pictionary. Addressing the enthralled fans, Ben drew a base play describing each move and option.

andrewduncan_3He also explained that NFL playbooks change every week and players have four or five days to learn the new plays, the terminology and what everyone is doing. Acknowledging that there could be 210 plays in a game plan, for each game, Ben confirmed he would talk to offensive co-ordinator Todd Haley every Friday and if he didn’t like a play he can ask the coach to take it out.

When the Steeler Nation UK flag was unravelled, Ben was very enthused and keen to have his photo taken with it and the fans.

The session ended with Ben having his photo taken individually with each fan.

*Thank you so much Andy!

And according to the emails and messages we received from other NFL-UK fans in attendance, the event was a “notable success” and many wanted to share their thoughts and their photos:

BillBadger“People say that you should never meet your heroes. These people clearly haven’t met Ben Roethlisberger.

Yesterday, I was privileged enough to meet the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. It couldn’t have been more enjoyable. Faced with a room full of UK Steelers, Ben was relaxed, personable and seemed genuinely happy to be there. Compared to other sports stars that I’ve met in the past, this was a breath of fresh air.

As he entered the room, everyone fell silent whilst taking in his awe-inspiring presence. A Q&A followed that shed light on his career and future in the game. He even got up and talked us through some basic offensive plays that he likes to run (don’t tell Todd Haley that though).

Ben was refreshingly honest throughout and although he named Carlsberg as his favourite beer to drink in the UK, I won’t hold that against him. The evening ended with us all getting a chance to meet Ben one on one. I couldn’t help but take this opportunity to ask for a Jerome Bettis-style hug, and to my amazement, he duly obliged.

Ben, thank you for a fantastic evening and see you in September buddy.” — Josh Perry

“I was taken aback at how down to earth and unassuming Ben was. Even though I am a Jets fan I have always been a fan of Ben’s and it was great that he seemed to be as happy to be there as we were! He didn’t try to rush off, he had time for everyone and even asked for a photo with everyone in front of the Steelers UK flag which was terrific. Thought I was lucky to get a place and very lucky to have been able to be part of such a unique event.” — Bill Badger

“I thought it was an amazing event, and I was very impressed that Ben took the time to sign things and take photographs with every fan who attended the event. Ben came across as really laid back and calm. I felt that it was such an honor to meet him in London and feel incredibly lucky as a Steeler fan based in the U.K. to have this opportunity, as I felt that not many fans in the U.S.A would get such a chance to be up close and personal with him. I only wish the event would have lasted a longer as it was really enjoyable to listen to him and what he had to say about the upcoming season and winning the Super Bowls.”— Toby Wilcock

andrewduncan_4“It was awesome – surreal to see him drawing up a play to show us and watching that Super Bowl footage with him sitting right there was incredible. What an amazing night, I still can’t believe it happened! He seemed like such a humble and genuine guy. Thoroughly enjoyed myself.” — Lauren Carrington

“It was an outstanding event. Ben was very articulate and kept his audience hanging on every word. You couldn’t fail to be impressed by him. I’m so glad that fatherhood is having the right affect on him.

He talked up the team, despite the personnel losses, so here’s to a great season and a super September.” — Gordon Dedman

I went to the event not really sure what to expect but by the end I was sad it had to finish. When Ben entered the room I can say with confidence that most of the people in the room were in shock to have the man there in front of us!! The event consisted of input from the fans through a question and answers session, which was very well received by the big man. Audio footage of Ben in games, and especially the winning Santonio Holmes Super Bowl touchdown from 2009 which Ben talked us through. To conclude the evening there was an opportunity to have a photo with Ben with the Steelers UK flag which was superb. Thank you Ben and NFLUK for giving us the chance to experience such an up close with one of the best QB around. — Richard Sly

“Great evening at the Grosvenor House with Big Ben talking football, game winning plays and golf!” — K.B. Jones

“We love Big Ben!” — Elliot Branton

“Had the most amazing time at Ben’s meet and greet in London, in fact I’m still buzzing 24hrs on and I think I have probably been pretty unbearable all day. Got my shirt signed, my photo taken and of course Ben was the perfect gentleman answering everyone’s questions and really taking the time with all of us. This was a once in a lifetime experience and a night I will never forget. Even got to see myself on Sky sports this morning sitting next to the man himself.” — Kelly Raynor, @steelersgirlbb7

SteelerNationUK_1“As a Steeler fan since the age of 10 and now staring 40 hard in the face I have seen a number of Quarterbacks under centre for the Pittsburgh Steelers but having missed the Golden Age of Terry Bradshaw I never appreciated the position as much as when the Steelers drafted Ben in 2004.

I do not consider myself to be starstruck by celebrities at all given that my day job is working on concerts and sporting events I meet a lot of “stars” on a daily basis but have to admit a sense of awe when seeing Ben walk into the room to meet the fans.

Looking surprisingly refreshed and relaxed given he had only arrived in the country that morning and following a busy day doing press events I found Ben to be engaging and humorous as he answered the hosts questions or those from the fans. He seemed to be genuinely pleased to see so many Steeler fans in attendance and was especially taken by a banner made by our Steeler Nation UK fan club keen to have a photo taken with it.

While all the questions, were I am sure ones he had had many times before, he seemed happy to talk to an excited groups of fans eager to hear him talk. It was good to hear his confidence in his young offensive line and his confidence the ability of Heath Miller to be back in time for the start of the season.

He stopped short of guaranteeing a Superbowl victory but inspired the attending fans by suggesting he had high expectations for the season ahead. When he watched highlights of his Superbowl winning pass against Arizona you could feel the pride and passion as he talked about the emotions of that moment and at the same time the sense of unhappiness and disappointed he felt personally after Superbowl XL despite the victory.

At the end of the session Ben very graciously posed for photos and signed an item for every fan there finally posing for some group shots at the end much to the delight of everyone.

I briefly spoke with his wife who was watching at the back of the room, and found her to be as engaging and gracious as her husband, and there is no doubt all the fans there had had a fantastic given the conversations we had as we left the hotel.” — Simon Chester, SteelerNation UK

“Big Ben was humble, amusing, open & insightful at tonight’s fan event organised by NFL-UK. Looking forward to interviewing him again tomorrow.” — Neil Reynolds, NFL journalist who conducted the Q&A’s at the event.

trevormartin_1“Many fans of Ben and the Steelers will be looking forward to the International Series game in London this year. I have never been able to visit the great city of Pittsburgh to watch my beloved Steelers play but have supported them from across the pond for some 40 years!

Friday morning I got the call from NFL you have been selected to meet Ben on Tuesday would you be able to come? I wanted to scream, ‘try keeping me away’, but as I work in a busy office I remained calm..ish. The anticipation for the next four days was huge and I still had to work Tuesday but arranged to leave early to ensure I made it on time.

Ben’s honest open and thoughtful answers to questions not just from host Neil, but from the audience of 30 were an insight into a man who whilst at the top of his sport appreciates the fans. He seemed genuinely surprised at the knowledge and enthusiasm of those of us attending.

Perhaps the most interesting reaction to our most lucky evening was probably on return to the bar to share our thoughts on the event. A gentleman noticing all the Pittsburgh Steeler Shirts came across as a resident of the Burgh to ask why we were there. When he found out who we had met he was rather jealous to put it mildly.

Meeting Ben Roethlisberger still feels like a dream 24 hours later. I was honoured and privileged to meet a superstar of the NFL who plays for the greatest team!” — Trevor Martin, Secretary, Macknade Cricket Club

You can see more photos from Ben’s trip here.

*Thank you to ALL of the NFL-UK fans!!