A wise man once said… nothing at all.
There’s been a heavy firestorm (for lack of better terms) of negative media attention towards the Pittsburgh Steelers organization this off-season. Whether it be the drama surrounding the Antonio Brown trade, the parting of Le’Veon Bell or even comments from former teammates on the current state of the team, it appears most of the blame for Pittsburgh’s problems can be traced back to the only player with a Super Bowl ring under their belt… quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has seen more than his fair share of criticism entering his sixteenth season in the NFL, for events unfolding both on and off the field. Whether it be the alleged sexual assault allegations, the concern of forced interceptions or theories of Roethlisberger faking injuries to only come back late and play the role of hero, Ben has received criticism through most of his career, whether it was deserved or not.
Yet the latest onslaught on Big Ben’s leadership might be the worst of the storm, as former teammates who once embraced Roethlisberger’s style of play and leadership are now stepping to microphones to let the world know how they really feel. The two biggest proponents of the shift in Ben’s spotlight derive from two superstars he shared the field with just two years ago in Bell/Brown, both now on new teams for 2019.
“The organization wants to win. Tomlin wants to win. Ben wants to win” said Bell to Sports Illustrated in late March after signing with the New York Jets. “But Ben wants to win his way, and that’s tough to play with. Ben won a Super Bowl, but he won when he was younger. Now he’s at this stage where he tries to control everything, and [the team] let him get there.”
Brown’s comments on Roethlisberger were more vocal, as he took to the world of Twitter to let everybody know his thoughts on Ben.
No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect! He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game. #truth https://t.co/MsSyBVd3Ny
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 16, 2019
Throw in a mix of running backs (Rashard Mendenhall and Josh Harris) and thus rests four players taking jabs at Roethlisberger. Yet the players aren’t alone in wanting to put their two cents in about Ben, as those in the media haven’t been shy towards Big Ben either.
“Ben doesn’t never say, ‘I played bad.’ He’s always willing to put the blame at someone else’s feet. Tom Brady has never done that. … All @AB84 did was give you a glimpse into what’s really causing the conflict and its’ no accountability.” — @ShannonSharpe pic.twitter.com/8AT6TzNiHF
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) February 18, 2019
One could find copious amounts of slander directed towards Ben online. By this point, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that Ben isn’t the most well-liked player in the league. With seemingly everybody and their mother giving their opinion on him, it would be of great ease for Roethlisberger to come out and publicly state his side of multiple stories he’s been thrown into. With the consistent stream of negativity surrounding his name, how has Roethlisberger retaliated?
By not saying a single word. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If silence were golden, Ben may have enough gold to make entire governments envious.
As the dust continues to settle, Roethlisberger’s silence grows more significant by the day. The ability to take the PR equivalent of a twelve round bout with a prime Mike Tyson and not retaliate in the slightest has proven to be the Steelers’ most efficient defense to what has been arguably the most controversial off-season in modern franchise history. Rather than add fuel to the fire by defending himself, the high road of silence prevails as the Steelers continue their efforts to get back to playoff football after missing the postseason in 2018. Two wrongs don’t make a right, after all. Should Roethlisberger fire back, how much better of a reaction would he receive as opposed to his counterparts? Any extra attention drawn to Ben or the Steelers is bad attention for a locker room trying to unite itself as one.
While the case of Roethlisberger v. Everybody has yet to see Ben make an appearance on the stand, that’s not to say others have failed to do-so.
ESPN’s Ryan Clark, who won Super Bowl XLIII with Roethlisberger, has not shied away from criticizing Ben in the past as he transitioned from player to journalist. However, Clark was quick to come to Ben’s defense when some choice comments were made about his character.
The whole debacle involving Josh Harris accusing Roethlisberger of purposely fumbling the football late in a game? Former Steelers second string quarterback Bruce Gradkowski stepped up to the plate and gave a video assessment of the specific play Harris references, essentially closing any argument those who believe Ben would intentionally fumble had.
Ben’s leadership? Look no further than the man who’s taken nearly every snap from Roethlisberger for the last nine seasons.
Thus we are brought to present day, under two weeks left until the 2019 NFL Draft. The Steelers are believed to have found the heir to Ben’s throne in either Josh Dobbs or Mason Rudolph, as Roethlisberger’s days appear to be coming to a close despite reports concerning a contract extension. Roethlisberger’s legacy will see him go down as the greatest quarterback to ever suit up for the Steelers, yet his image won’t be viewed without a few blemishes.
Roethlisberger hasn’t always handled things the right way. There has indeed existed times where Roethlisberger hasn’t shouldered the blame, a duty usually reserved for the quarterback regardless of the situation. Hosting a weekly radio show has stirred quite the controversy in years past, stretching even to the days when Emmanuel Sanders was a member of the organization. With talks of Roethlisberger potentially putting an end to his weekly segments, it appears as if Ben heard the message loud and clear: Outside noise is not needed in the Steelers locker room.
It’s been quite the off-season for Ben Roethlisberger. After months of letting others spew their thoughts, it appears Roethlisberger will take to the field and let his play do the talking.
NBC’s Mike Florio Predicts Dim Outlook for JuJu Smith-Schuster in Free Agency
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is not so sure Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get the pay day he believes he deserves.
Florio joined The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Friday, and painted a dim picture of Smith-Schuster’s free agency prospects.
“If Juju wants to be paid like a No. 1 wide receiver, he’s going to be waiting a long, long time,” Florio said.
Smith-Schuster has expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh, but their dire salary cap situation had a made a continuation seemingly impossible.
Now that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has signed a new contract and provided the club additional financial flexibility, there may be a path for Smith-Schuster to return. Still, there will not be enough money available to pay him like one of the league’s elite wideouts.
If that is what Smith-Schuster wants in Pittsburgh, he may be in for a rude awakening as Florio predicts.
Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions in 2020, while also tallying 831 yards and nine touchdowns.
Selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Smith-Schuster has 293 receptions, 3,565 yards and 24 touchdowns as a Steeler. He was selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 2018.
Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada on Run Game, Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has spoken publicly for the first time since his promotion in late January.
Canada joined the latest edition of The Standard, the Steelers’ behind-the-scenes web series, and discussed a number of topics, including fixing the run game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive philosophy.
There is no denying Pittsburgh produced the least successful rushing attack in football a season ago, averaging just 84.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt.
Canada recognizes the Steelers need to improve significantly on the ground, a mandate he implied came down from Team President Art Rooney II.
“He’s made it very clear that that’s got to get better,” Canada said. “When all of us realized that we didn’t get it done we wanted to with our running game and all of who are here are part of that. And we’ve got to improve upon it in a multitude of ways and we’re certainly focused on it. We’re globally studying who’s running the ball well. We’ve always believed in running the football anywhere that I’ve been. You win up front. I believe that. We believe that. I know Coach Tomlin believes that.”
Not only will the Steelers have to better impose their will in the trenches, but Canada knows they will also have to remove the predictability that plagued them last season, especially in the passing game.
“You have to be able to run the football when they know you’re going to run it,” Canada added. “And you have to be able to throw the football when they know you’re going to throw it.”
Canada also gushed over Roethlisberger, who the Steelers announced will be returning for the 2021 season on a one-year contract Thursday.
“He’s such a great competitor. He competes at everything he does and his competitive drive is so strong and so awesome to be around no matter what we’re doing,” Canada said of Roethlisberger.
He also praised the 39-year-old’s accuracy, which he believes sets Roethlisberger apart from his peers.
“And then just his accuracy. And I’ve said this to one of my buddies who’s a quarterback coach somewhere else. Young quarterbacks, I wish there was some way for them to be here and watch how he practices putting the ball in certain spots. It’s such a unique talent that he’s able to do it.”
While Roethlisberger’s new deal has provided the Steelers some much needed financial flexibility, they will still undoubtedly have some tough departures once free agency begins in earnest.
Regardless which players do or do not remain in Pittsburgh heading into the 2021 season, Canada insists his offense will be multi-dimensional and cater to whatever personnel the Steelers have on the offensive side.
“We are going through and looking at the foundation of our offense. And building an offense that will be conducive to whatever talent that we have,” Canada said. “I don’t believe you have a certain system that works and this is all we’re going to do and we have to have the players for that. We have the players we have each year. Our job is to score more points than the team we play on each Sunday.”
Steelers Sign Center J.C. Hassenauer on One-Year Deal
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed center J.C. Hassenauer to a one-year deal, first reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Steelers sign center J.C. Hassenauer, an exclusive rights free agent, to a one-year deal, per source.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 4, 2021
An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.
Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.
Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.
He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.
Hassenauer played his college ball at Alabama. He made just three career starts for the Crimson Tide, with his final coming in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game, a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia.
Hassenauer’s agent Blake Baratz confirmed the signing on Twitter on Thursday.