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.