He wished he could have led one more drive -- a victory parade down the packed streets of Pittsburgh with a seventh Super Bowl trophy along for the ride.
One day after the Steelers' 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, the gloomy weather seemed fitting for a city dealing with a rare loss in the big game. If there's one franchise that isn't used to this feeling, it's the Steelers. Sure, they lost a Super Bowl before, but they've won two since and own six in their collection.
"I feel like I let the city of Pittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches, my teammates," he said Sunday night after the loss.
The Steelers can only hope they won't hear a similar speech this offseason from the maligned quarterback.
Roethlisberger shamed the organization last offseason with his behavior in a Georgia nightclub that resulted in a sexual-assault allegation. He wasn't prosecuted, but he receive earn a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy.
Normally, when a topic like Roethlisberger's third title pops up, the old NFL adage that "there's always next year" would surface.
But that might not be the case this year.
The collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the day on March 3, and barring an agreement before then, owners are threatening to lock out players. Therefore, Sunday's Super Bowl could be the last game played this calendar year.
"I don't think it's even a 'possible lockout.' I feel that it's something that is definitely going to happen," Steelers linebacker James Harrison said. "I hope it doesn't, because it's going to take a lot away from the fans. When it comes down to it, it's a business move for (the NFL), and if it's the way they say it is, I don't see any other option. They still will make their money and not have to pay anything."
If that's not the case, and the 2011 season goes on as planned, the Steelers will return in great shape.
"I feel good about our team," he said. "We'll go into next year feeling like we'll take another shot at it. It takes a few days to recover from this game, so we'll lick our wounds for a couple of days and then get back to work next year."
There's plenty of blame to pass around for the way this season ended, though.
The Steelers were let down by a defense picked apart by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Harrison and NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' super safety, failed to deliver the big plays and hard hits that had defined the season. Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP, took aim at Pittsburgh's suspect secondary and connected for several clutch plays.
"(Green Bay's) defense," Polamalu said, "outplayed our defense."
The Steelers, who weren't available to the media Monday, returned to Pittsburgh without a parade to plan. Street vendors hawking Steelers merchandise offered blowout sales on "last day to buy!" signs. And airport kiosks were quiet without any Super Bowl-champion T-shirts to sell, as shoppers lingered in novelty stores without the pressure to buy.
A silver lining for the black-and-gold faithful is all the "Seventh Heaven" merchandise still will be good for at least another year.
"I think so," he said. "I love this group. I think it is a heck of a group. There is a lot more football left in us. We just have to stay together. Hopefully, everything works out in the offseason and we get back here next season."
Rooney doesn't seem worried, though.
"I don't think we'll be sitting there saying we're going to make a lot of changes," he said. "We'll prepare for the draft and add some players here and there, and be ready to go."
"Seventh Heaven" still awaits.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press