Ben Roethlisberger is taking a break from football and going fishing. The Steelers quarterback made it clear, however, that no matter what he catches next week, his focus is ultimately on reeling in something much bigger.
"Hopefully, we win the Super Bowl," Roethlisberger said Tuesday while working at the youth camp that bears his name at Mars High School's football field. "That's my goal this year and I think we've got the personnel for it."
Roethlisberger may be the biggest reason for optimism in regard to the Steelers attaining that goal. He is coming off a breakout season, one in which he made the Pro Bowl and shattered a Steelers single-season record with 32 touchdown passes, and he should have better command of the offense Bruce Arians installed last year.
Roethlisberger didn't just crack the ranks of elite quarterbacks last season. He also established himself the unquestioned leader of the offense in his fourth year as the Steelers' starting quarterback.
"I think it's been a gradual process, but you could kind of see it coming along last year," Steelers tight end Heath Miller said. "He knew that this was his offense, and he knew that everyone in the huddle was looking into his eyes because they knew he was our leader."
Roethlisberger, 26, admittedly has had to grow into that role -- he took over a veteran-laden offense when an injury thrust him into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2004 -- and he said he plans to be even more vocal this season since he is more comfortable with Arians' offense.
"Because it was a new offense (last season) it's kind of hard to be too vocal as a leader when you're not sure what's going on all the time on offense," Roethlisberger said. "This year I think I'll be able to develop even more and hopefully just be able to continue to grow into my leadership role."
Even though the Steelers are finished with offseason practices and don't report to training camp until July 27, Roethlisberger said he has been preparing in earnest for the upcoming season.
The 6-foot-5, 241-pounder said he will return to Pittsburgh after his fishing trip and resume working out on a daily basis as well as chatting with Arians, the Steelers' offensive coordinator, regularly.
As for what he can do following a season in which he finished second only to Tom Brady in passer rating (104.1) and also befuddled opponents with his Houdini-like ability to escape the pass rush, Roethlisberger said there is plenty.
"I'm never going to be satisfied with where I'm at," Roethlisberger said. "I'm always going to try and get better, whether it's reading defenses better, knowing what's going on, on offense. There's a lot of little things I'd like to do to get better."
And if Roethlisberger manages to get better, the Steelers only figure to do the same.
The team won an AFC North title but faded in the latter part of the 2007 season and lost to Jacksonville, 29-27, in an AFC wild-card game.
Despite the disappointing end to a season that started with such promise, Roethlisberger said he is confident the Steelers can contend for the Super Bowl this year.
"I think we've got a lot of pieces," he said, "and we're a year better."