Leading up to Sunday, Denver heard Roethlisberger and others talk about "the pain issue'' and the uncertainty of what Roethlisberger would or would not be able to do. In a conference call last week with Denver-area media, Roethlisberger said if he "can't throw it more than 25, 30 yards,'' he would ask Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to take him out of the game.
By the time the Broncos finished punching their ticket to the AFC Championship game, they had seen Roethlisberger complete 24 of 37 passes for 339 yards. The Broncos' defense surrendered two 300-yard passing games this season -- both to Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger threw for 380 yards in Pittsburgh's Dec. 20 victory.
"We knew what to expect,'' Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson said. "We knew he'd be in there throwing it. We never thought he wouldn't be able to throw it.''
Even if the Broncos had had any doubts about Roethlisberger's ability to throw the ball -- to a player, they said they didn't -- those were quickly shoved aside by Roethlisberger himself.
On the Steelers' first play from scrimmage, Roethlisberger fired a pass deep down the left sideline, aimed at Markus Wheaton. Roethlisberger overthrew Wheaton on the play, but the Broncos had all the information they needed at that point.
"We had kind of talked about it and probably said, knowing Ben ... you knew he'd be ready to go,'' Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "When we saw them line up a certain formation, on the headsets it was mentioned, 'Be careful here.' You knew right there he was going to be able to throw all day long.''
Even Tomlin quickly shoved aside any discussion of Roethlisberger's shoulder injury following the game.
"He was fine,'' Tomlin said. "We didn't really talk about it once the game got started.''