From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this afternoon:

7_340These are good days to be Ben Roethlisberger.

He has virtually everyone back from one of the most productive and talented offenses in the NFL. He has the new offensive coordinator he wanted. He says he’s as healthy as he’s been in his 15 seasons with the Steelers, his weight an eight-year low.

He guided the Steelers to the third most victories in franchise history. And he’s coming off one of the best playoff performances ever by a quarterback, certainly the most productive in Steelers history.

Yet, something is missing, and Roethlisberger will tell you what that is: a Super Bowl victory. There has not been one for the Steelers going on a decade, not an appearance in one going on eight years.

He set franchise playoff records with 469 passing yards against Jacksonville (second most in NFL postseason history), with five touchdown passes, and with 37 completions in 58 attempts.

But it wasn’t enough as his team lost 45-42 at home after a bye week and one step short of a second consecutive AFC title game in New England.

Before he walked onto the field for his first training camp practice of his 15th season, Roethlisberger reflected on that loss, the defense that did not get it done that day, his next contract, the departure of Todd Haley and what the absence of Le’Veon Bell might mean for him and the Steelers:

• On the playoff loss.

“For someone like me who has played this long, it doesn’t matter how well you play, it’s the win and loss. I’ve long said I could have the best game of my life and lose and it doesn’t mean anything. Winning and losing is all that matters to me.”

• On his next contract.

Typically, the Steelers have negotiated an extension when he had two years left. He has told them he’d like to play another three to five years. But with two years left on his deal, there is no indication they will negotiate an extension this year.

“It hasn’t even been a thought. If they’ve talked to … my representatives, I don’t know about it. I’ve got this year and next year. So I’m not worried about it. I’ve played long enough that I don’t need to sit here and worry about the next one. I’ll just play this season and let them figure out what they want to do.”

• On Randy Fichtner, part of Mike Tomlin’s first staff in 2007, being promoted from quarterbacks coach to coordinator:

“I don’t think it will affect [the offense] too much. Randy and I have been together for eight, nine years, a long time. So there’s a lot of familiarity there, both on a personal level and work level. I’m really excited for him to take that next step, happy for him. I’m excited he’s getting an opportunity to show what he’s really capable of doing.”

• On playing the opener in Cleveland with Todd Haley now the Browns coordinator.

Roethlisberger revealed his past two coordinators will work that game, saying Bruce Arians will be in the TV booth calling the game for CBS, even though the network has not confirmed that.

“I think the whole thing is going to be kind of interesting. Interesting to say the least. I’m sure the NFL had a little something to do about that — B.A., Todd, making it the first game of the year.”

• He does not think Le’Veon Bell’s expected absence until Labor Day will hurt him or the team.

“He is a stud when it comes to working out and training. I think this is an awesome opportunity for the other guys.”

090417• He is more optimistic about his defense than are many people.

“I know that’s kind of the question mark for fans and people out there, but me facing them every day I’m pretty excited about what I think they can do.

“You hate not having [Ryan Shazier], that’s a bummer on a lot of fronts, but I’m not worried about our defense … I think you’re going to see some younger guys taking steps — Artie Burns, Sean Davis, that younger class that needs to step up. I think you sprinkle in Joe Haden, you sprinkle in Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic, some of those veteran guys. I’m more excited about our defense.”

• He still believes New England is the team to beat in the AFC.

“I think you have to look at who won it. The Eagles are the team to beat in the NFL. The Patriots won the AFC, so they’re the team to beat. I’d like to think we’re a good enough football team to be talked about as a team to beat, but when it comes down to it it’s all about the team that won it last year.”

More from Ben’s interview with Mr. Bouchette here.