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Ben Roethlisberger: Tough when rival wins Super Bowl

Ben Roethlisberger's painful end to the 2012 season didn't stop after a three-game losing streak brought the Pittsburgh Steelers to 8-8. It continued right into the NFL playoffs, when he had to watch his biggest rival, the Baltimore Ravens, win Super Bowl XLVII.

"When it's not you, you never like it," Roethlisberger told Jarrett Bell of USA Today on Monday. "And when it's someone in your division, it's always tougher. It's just motivation to be better this year."

Roethlisberger was having one of the better seasons of his NFL career in the first half of last season, despite some uneven play from the teammates around him. And then rib and shoulder injuries hit.

"I just think that before the injury, he was playing really good football, then after the injury he wasn't -- and neither were we," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "That's the reality. I'm not trying to make excuses."

Said Roethlisberger: "I just had a bad year. It happens."

Big Ben is talking up a newly "open" line of communication with offensive coordinator Todd Haley this season, with more input into the offense.

"Normally, at this point in my career, OTAs (organized team activities) are boring. But this has been good. I'm still learning this stuff," Roethlisberger said.

I still think Roethlisberger has an MVP-caliber season left in his wildly underrated career. Perhaps it will come during a season when no one really is counting on the Steelers as a factor.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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