PITTSBURGH -- Will this finally be the year that Ben Roethlisberger is recognized as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL?
Or will those with lesser resumes and, more importantly, less playoff and Super Bowl victories continue to garner all the accolades?
"I don't think that really matters to Ben, as long as we're winning football games, get into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl,'' Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. "That's our main goal this year, to get back into the playoffs and get to Arizona.''
If the Steelers are going to qualify for the playoffs and certainly if they are going to make it to the site of Super Bowl 49 in Phoenix, depends on how well Pouncey and the club's offensive line protects Roethlisberger and how well the 11th-year quarterback performs this season.
Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner has been more of an offseason presence than ever this year.
"You see him in the building a lot more,'' Fichtner said. "He has made a big, conscious effort to be around at every function that we've had, all the pre-OTAs, all the OTAs.
"It's been just great having him in the building. ... He tweaked a few things (so far in spring drills). I know it was nothing that he hadn't done before, maybe just a little more intensity.''
Roethlisberger clearly is aware that this is a crucial season in many ways. The Steelers are coming off consecutive 8-8, non-playoff seasons, and he has just two years remaining on his contract. So, he could be playing for one final extension if the Steelers don't re-up him in the next couple months.
Jarvis Jones isn't making any assumptions
•Behind the Steel CurtainJones is feeling much more comfortable than he was last year though, and spoke about how much Joey Porter has been helping him.
"I just love being out here,'' Roethlisberger said. "I love the game, and I feel younger than ever. I'm just excited to be out and playing football. I'm excited about this team and the direction that I think we're headed. ... Obviously, I didn't have to be out here (for every OTA), but I wanted to be out here.
"Being here and the pre-stuff that we did, the 30 minutes we were allowed before, so just being out here and working and talking with the guys, I feel like I've already played together with these guys for a couple of years.''
One difference for Roethlisberger has been his involvement with the younger players on offense, specifically wideouts Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye and Justin Brown. The trio appears to be battling for the fifth and final roster spot for wideouts this season.
"I've prided myself in my career as being one of those guys that kind of just does whatever the team needs him to do,'' Moore said.
"I played a lot of football and have been successful in a number of roles, catching the ball and in a bunch of different situations as well. I feel like I've made a lot of plays and will continue to do that.''
Roethlisberger certainly is thrilled to have players like Antonio Brown (fifth NFL season), Moore (nine) and Heyward-Bey (six) in the fold this year. When 10th-year tight end Heath Miller is added to the mix, Roethlisberger has the most-experienced group of pass-catchers that he's had since the Steelers took him with the eighth overall pick in the first round during the 2004 NFL Draft.
However, Roethlisberger is just as excited about working with guys like Moye and Justin Brown, who have shown a great deal of improvement this spring.
"Justin has been getting a lot of reps, and I'm really proud of the way he's been playing,'' Roethlisberger said. "He's been playing three spots at receiver (and) is making quite a few plays. (Brown and Moye) have done a great job. They've put a lot of work in during this offseason.''
And all that should pay off during the regular season.