PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger has had three offensive coordinators during his 11-year NFL career, and he'll get to face his first one again Monday night.
Ken Whisenhunt, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator when the team selected Roethlisberger during the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, is the head coach for the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers and Titans meet Monday night in Nashville.
"I remember having the opportunity to work with a young man that did pretty good (and) has done pretty good for them,'' Whisenhunt said. "He was new at what he was doing in the NFL, and I was new at what I was doing. I'd say that's probably pretty natural for the situation."
"But I tell you what, he always worked hard and did a great job. I was very lucky to have an opportunity to work with Ben. I admire the fact that he's been such a good player for so long now. I'm not excited about facing him because of the way he's playing right now, but I certainly have a great deal of respect for the pro that he's become.''
It's a good bet that Whisenhunt had a lot to do with Roethlisberger's early development, even though the quarterback said the two butted heads a good deal from the outset. But all that changed during the last 6-7 years the two worked together, and now they text each other on a regular basis.
"I never really had an issue with coach,'' Roethlisberger said. "We butted heads as lots of people do, but I don't think it was any issue. B.A. (Bruce Arians) and I butted heads too, and you guys thought we were too close. (But) he was the first guy that I ever worked with before I knew what it was like to be in the NFL. Just the communication, talking to him and understanding the game."
"I think he worked so well with me and Coach (Mark) Whipple, my quarterbacks coach at the time, just to help a young guy understand what the game of football is all about. (But) we would go through the plays, and if I say I don't like a play usually coordinators take it out. He would kind of try to convince me that it was a good play."
"And he probably knew better because I was a young guy and didn't know much about the NFL at the time,'' Roethlisberger added. "But if you want to call that butting heads I guess that's what you would call it. Just as simple as me maybe not as being comfortable with a play that he wanted to call.''
Roethlisberger clearly didn't have as much input in the Steelers' offense during his time with Whisenhunt as he did when Arians took over, but these were the early days in the quarterback's career.
"It was kind of coaches' way. And I think some of that too with Coach Whiz was because of the Chin (Bill Cowher) he had looking down on him,'' Roethlisberger said. "He had to kind of run it a certain way, and that's just the way it goes."
"Yeah it was with B.A. I started to get some input and then even more now. But like I said, a lot of that's just because of the growth and maturity and understanding that I have.''
Whisenhunt noted that he remembered mostly that the two were quite successful with a lot of wins and a Super Bowl, and he didn't remember much negative from their time together.
"I know that the first year there it was a whole new system, and we were trying to figure out what we could do and the defense was playing really good for us, and we were running the football,'' Whisenhunt said.
"But I do remember there were many times when the plays didn't go the way we wanted them to and Ben made great plays out of them. So it always makes you look good when you call a play and Ben finds a way to make it a touchdown. But I don't remember the specific time (when things clicked for Roethlisberger).''
Roethlisberger also had one big win against Whisenhunt after he left the Steelers. Whisenhunt was the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals when Roethlisberger led a late touchdown drive against them to pull out a Steelers victory in Super Bowl 43.