When Big Ben leaves, the party begins in Steelers locker room

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PITTSBURGH -- The locker room was fairly calm when Ben Roethlisberger walked out of it Friday afternoon.

A few minutes later, Drake blared from Cam Heyward's corner. Defensive backs in the area broke out various Fortnite dances before Heyward switched up the pace with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

That the needle dropped when the quarterback departed was no coincidence.

"You've got to respect what he wants," Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "He's not here, it's party time."

There's an unwritten rule in the Steelers locker room that Roethlisberger works to protect -- no blaring loud music during core business hours.

Players cultivate a casual, laugh-heavy atmosphere each day, but from 8 a.m. until post-practice showers between 3 and 4 p.m., musical silence is black and golden.

Roethlisberger says the Steelers' setup has been this way since he arrived in 2004 and veterans such as Alan Faneca and Brett Keisel kept the speakers off.

Now, at 36, Roethlisberger is upholding the tradition, though he's not trying to be the get-off-my-lawn dad.

"That's one of the reasons they invented headphones, so you can listen to your music," said Roethlisberger with a laugh. "If you want to listen to music, that's no problem, we just don't want to have to hear it at other people's lockers. It's just kind of always been that tradition and we try to keep it going."

Roethlisberger occasionally enforces the rule with teammates, either in person or via his long-distance connection.

"Usually I'll send AB [Antonio Brown] a text on the other side of the locker room," Roethlisberger said. "I'll be like, ‘AB, music.' He'll look down and say, my bad. It's pretty funny. We have fun with it. He'll say like, it's Vinny [Williams] or somebody else. It's usually done in fun. It's not really serious. But I try to keep that tradition alive."

Players don't need Roethlisberger to formally address the team about the music, Heyward-Bey said. The rules are understood, and players get a feeling about how things should be.

Games are permissible. Many players play garbage-can hoops after practice while media conduct interviews. And players get music during weightlifting sessions.

"We don't need a club in here 24-7," Heyward-Bey said. "It's like that on other teams. [Roethlisberger] is a big part of the fact that, 'Hey, guys, from 8 to 3, let's focus in.' Have some fun and laugh, but we don't need to be a club here. I feel him on that."

Many NFL teams play music in the locker room and during practice, but speakers are only on the Steelers' fields for crowd-noise simulation.

Roethlisberger appreciates the no-music approach because each player prepares for practices and games differently.

"I always tell [teammates], too -- when I retire, you guys can change the rules, do whatever you want," Roethlisberger said. "But I hope that I can pass down some of the same things that were passed down to me. I think that on gameday and even at practice, everyone wants to get prepared differently. How am I supposed to get prepared if this guy is listening to rap and this guy is listening to country and this guy is listening to hard rock? It's hard to focus. So it's just a matter of respecting everyone's area and their process."

Friday is a common day for locker-room music, depending on the mood. Heyward, a co-captain with Roethlisberger and occasional DJ, said the team keeps decorum not just for the quarterback, but for those covering the team.

"We try to be respectful sometimes to the media, let you guys get your questions in," Heyward said. "When everyone leaves, that's when we can throw a party."