Big Ben entering 11th NFL season

WINTERSVILLE – Just because the Pittsburgh Steelers finished out of the playoffs two straight seasons doesn’t mean Ben Roethlisberger is ready to give up on football.

Just because he was hitting home runs at PNC Park last week doesn’t mean he’s joining the Pirates, either.

Prior to last Thursday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, Roethlisberger joined Andrew McCutchen, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison and the rest of the Pirates on field for a quick batting practice session.

“It was just a little bit of fun,” Roethlisberger said. “The coaches were impressed with my hitting skills.”

He mostly hit line drives to the outfield, but he counted at least two balls that left the park.

At Findlay High School, Roethlisberger played shortstop and was a three-sport standout before accepting a football scholarship to Miami University.

Roethlisberger, 32, is entering his 11th season in the National Football League. Drafted in 2004 out of Miami of Ohio, he won his first 13 games in a row to set a new rookie record. He became the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl title in his second season. He collected another Lombardi Trophy in 2010. Roethlisberger is Pittsburgh’s all-time leader in career wins (88), passing touchdowns (219), passing yards (34,105) and pass completions (2,749).

“I’ve done it for a long time,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed to have played this game as long as I have.

‘There are a lot of things I’ve gotten to experience. I don’t take anything for granted and I hope that I have many more seasons left in me.”

The Steelers recently began organized team activities and Roethlisberger strapped on pads for the first time Tuesday to open minicamp at the team’s practice facility on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Training camp begins July 26 at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t get too antsy until I have to go to camp,” Roethlisberger said. “This is just another year and another day.

“I get the feeling that it’s close and the season will start before we know it.”

The Steelers went 8-8 in 2013. In 2012, they also went 8-8 to miss the playoffs for the first year since 2006.

Roethlisberger admitted that the past two seasons have been “uncharacteristic” for the tradition-rich franchise that has won six Super Bowls.

“We just have to go out and do what we do best and that’s win football games,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re going to give it everything we’ve got to work towards that ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.”

Pittsburgh fans everywhere will now move forward with a guardian angel above them. Over the weekend, legendary head coach Chuck Noll died at the age of 82. Noll led the Steelers to four of their Super Bowl titles in a 22-year head coaching career.

“He was the leader of the Steelers family,” Roethlisberger said. “What he did for the franchise is unparalleled. His success and legacy will always be remembered.

“We lost a great coach and a great man.”

Roethlisberger spent most of the weekend lounging near a swimming pool celebrating Father’s Day with his two children. He and his wife, Ashley, gave birth to a baby girl in March. Last year, they welcomed a son into the world.

“I’m a fairly new dad and it was a great day to spend with my kids,” he said.