Ben Roethlisberger to set Pittsburgh Steelers record for career games played

PITTSBURGH -- When Ben Roethlisberger takes his first snap against the Houston Texans on Sunday, he will do something no other member of the Pittsburgh Steelers has ever done.

He'll play in his 221st game for the organization, breaking the record previously set by Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.

"I am so thankful to be in the black and gold 17 years later," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "I mean, almost half of my life I've been here, giving Steeler fans everything I have. And I wouldn't want to be anywhere else; I wouldn't want to do it for any other team or any other fans."

That Roethlisberger, 38, made it to this point in his career is no small feat -- especially considering the physical toll on his body during the early years of his career. Roethlisberger was sacked an NFL-high 50 times in 2009 and an average of 46 times in each of the three years prior.

"I did take a lot of beating early on," the 6-foot-5, 240-pound veteran said. "A lot of that was my fault. But God made me a bigger man than most quarterbacks, so I think I can take it, and I'm just enjoying playing this game."

The significance of Roethlisberger reaching this milestone with an organization known for having players stick around for a long time isn't lost on his teammates.

"Was Ben with the Steel Curtain [of the 1970s]? Because it seems like he's been playing forever," defensive lineman Cam Heyward joked. "It's a testament to what he's done, and you don't just get there by playing those games. You have to be worthy of that record. I think you've got win at an all-time-high level. You've got to have a great amount of durability to take the hits at quarterback in this league; you see a lot of guys drop in and drop out.

"I know he's coming off a big injury, and he's playing at a high level again. To keep doing it and be consistent in that approach, it's uncanny. There's only about 10 or so guys that are able to do it that long."

The milestone would've come a year sooner for Roethlisberger, but he missed all but two games of last season with the elbow injury to his throwing arm. Getting back in the groove is a week-by-week challenge. After two games, he feels more comfortable in the pocket and dealing with in-game pressure, but now the challenge lies in fine-tuning his footwork and trusting his receivers.

"I've gotten away with it in the past, being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up, and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections," Roethlisberger said. "... And whether it's the layoff, whether it's the surgery -- because I feel great, so I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I'm not in perfect position to make them.

"And maybe some of that comes with just not playing a lot of football. I've played two games this year; I played a game-and-a-half last year. So, really, it's 3½ games in two years. ... So it'll come. Like I said, if I'm having these issues, and we're still winning football games, then that's a plus."