PITTSBURGH -- Securing a Pittsburgh Steelers playoff win in Kansas City, and then in New England, will require a few vintage Big Ben moments.
The Steelers' locker room is brimming with confidence after eight straight wins, and WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell are key weapons. But QB Ben Roethlisberger must sidestep a few potholes on the road to his fourth Super Bowl appearance.
His body seems to be one pothole.
Roethlisberger suffered a right foot injury Sunday against Miami, and the quarterback said on 93.7 The Fan that he's still experiencing some soreness and could get an off day Wednesday.
That's on top of his Week 6 knee injury that required surgery. Roethlisberger was fifth in ESPN's Total QBR rankings through the first five weeks and finished the season 10th (66.5). The Steelers turned to a run-heavy attack down the stretch, resulting in fewer air-it-out drives for Roethlisberger, but the QBR difference is noteworthy, considering the timing of his injury.
In the Steelers' last two playoff road losses, both in Denver, Roethlisberger was beat up from previous action. Last postseason, he took a shoulder injury into Mile High Stadium and, without Brown, threw for 339 yards in a 23-16 divisional-round loss. After the 2011 season, a high ankle sprain hampered Roethlisberger entering a Steelers wild-card loss that was defined by then-Denver QB Tim Tebow's 80-yard touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas.
If Roethlisberger feels any soreness planting and throwing this week, facing a Chiefs defense that's tied for the league lead in interceptions (18) just got more difficult.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is optimistic.
"We'll watch him closely as we push forward to the game, but not anticipating that limiting him," Tomlin said. "I don't imagine his foot circumstance changing our approach [to preparation]."
Roethlisberger has many things working for him. His running back looks championship-ready. Bell is averaging 27 carries per game since mid-November and keeps getting stronger. Brown is eager to show he's much more than a fantasy football star. The Steelers' defense is allowing an average of 16.6 points per game over its last eight matchups. And no team is hotter, due in large part to Roethlisberger's contributions, most notably his fourth-quarter scoring drives against Cincinnati and Baltimore to clinch the division.
Also, Roethlisberger revels in cold-weather games, going 22-7 for his career in temperatures below 32 degrees.
But there's one stat that Roethlisberger would no doubt like to redirect: his home-vs.-away production. While averaging 332 yards and nearly three touchdowns per game in his last 16 Heinz Field appearances, he has averaged 279 yards, 1.06 touchdowns and 1.06 interceptions per road game during that 16-game clip.
Recently, Roethlisberger has referenced his ability to control the noise and call a tighter cadence at home. Arrowhead Stadium will not help him in this area.
Roethlisberger plans to combat Arrowhead with speed.
"Tempo," Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan. "The faster we can get to the line of scrimmage, the more time we can communicate and check and make those things happen."
Roethlisberger has had a solid season -- not his best, but very good. He'll have at least one chance to punctuate it with a legacy moment.