May 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (center) is interviewed by the media as he exits the field after organized team activities at the Steelers training facility. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic has an interesting column in regards to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's somewhat passive-aggressive response to an off-season that saw him called out for extending plays, fired his buddy offensive coordinator and a supposed overhaul of the offensive scheme.
Kovacevic's column isn't slanted the way the headline "Kovacevic: Get Over It, Ben" implies. It's actually more pro-Roethlisberger, but the message is true; he needs to get over it and perform. It's a message given to every pro athlete, whether directly or indirectly, and how that message is taken is all in the delivery of it.
He raises bigger, if not slightly snide, points in regards to how Roethlisberger has been treated. The whole situation really toes the line between control issues facing management in professional sports circles. Is it ill-advised for an ownership group (i.e. front office and coaches) to demand a veteran player with a proven track record of success alter the way he plays the game? Does that demand only come when the alleged player is no longer capable of playing in that style?
I wrote a column in wake of the Steelers playoff game at Denver in January, paraphrasing Jim Wexell, who had written about a source in the front office who was essentially saying Roethlisberger's gravy train ends with a less-than-Roethlisbergean playoff performance. I equally called him out, implying the weight of the game is on his shoulders, and past heroic performances and bum ankles aside, he needs to find a way to win the game.
It created quite the stir in BTSC Nation, bringing supporters and antagonists alike. On one hand, Ben's past performance (or anyone's for that matter) shouldn't give him a license to do as he wishes for as long as he pleases. On the other, he earned a massive contract and a lot of wins playing the game a certain way.
Both sides are right and both sides are wrong. What I can't get past is this one saying; "If you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to keep getting what you're getting."
The scrambling Roethlisberger works. Until it doesn't. Roethlisberger is healthy, until he isn't. Idiotic logic, I know, but true, nonetheless. All signs are pointing to new offensive coordinator Todd Haley implementing a shorter, more rhythm-based passing offense (or, at least, Roethlisberger's public wishy-washiness over learning it and, as Kovacevic points out, frustration-laced comments about being told to stay healthy this year suggest that's what's coming). In that, Ben can't be as Ben as he'd like to be. When Ben was being the Ben he likes to be, he won games. Recently, though, the scrambles seemed more aimed at getting the ball 40 yards down the field instead of to the first down markers. His extended plays resulted in sacks and turnovers as opposed to third down conversions and yards after the catch.
It's fair for Haley, someone on the outside, even with having played Roethlisberger twice as Kansas City's head coach, to wonder what difference it makes whether he's scrambling or just getting rid of the ball, provided the end result is a completion? It's fair for Ben to feel slighted in all of this, considering his track record of success.
Maybe Ben needs to get over it as much as the front office and head coach Mike Tomlin does. Confrontation and challenges are excellent motivators, but discord is not. However or for whatever the reason, Roethlisberger needs to be on board. We could argue all day about his motivation behind his willingness ("great team player") or his lack of desire ("stubborn, spoiled athlete") to get on board, but the Steelers need Roethlisberger. His success has raised the basement level of respect he is to be given; whether we like it or not, that's how it works.
Therein lies the issue I have. How far the Steelers plan to over-correct a problem all Steelers fans can collectively see - an offense that can't score points? Perhaps Ben shouldn't air his dirty laundry (passive-aggressively or otherwise), and nothing suggests he isn't working hard to learn the desires of his new coach. But a step in the wrong direction, both with Roethlisberger personally and with the offense this year could be disastrous. If the offense doesn't fit the franchise player - whether by design or execution - there will be bigger problems than Roethlisberger's comments when Haley isn't made available to the media to answer questions along the same lines.