Maybe it's because he doesn't have anything to gain by saying otherwise. Maybe it's a legitimate sentiment. Either way, it's obvious Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has WR Mike Wallace's back as he continues to sit out training camp and the preseason in an effort to get a long-term deal from the Steelers.
Roethlisberger appeared on 93.7 The Fan earlier this week, and among other things, discussed the Steelers' offense without Wallace before their preseason game at Philadelphia. The Steelers lost that game 24-23, and their offense struggled to generate much momentum.
Perhaps Roethlisberger's comments were foreshadowing something deeper than the offensive slump they displayed at Lincoln Financial Field, which could be attributed simply to offense taking more time to develop.
BTSC Godfather Michael Bean transcribed the highlights of the interview for Sports Radio Interviews, and posted it Thursday morning as a teaser to the game.
Roethlisberger was asked if he was growing increasingly concerned with Wallace's contract situation.
No, I talked to Mike several days back. It was his birthday, I gave him a call to wish him happy birthday and see how he was doing. And Mike's training hard. He's training with his helmet on just like he'd be here. So he's doing a lot of things. And I have confidence he'll be here and ready to go for the season.
What do you think of fans who don't think Wallace isn't all that important to the offense, Ben?
"They're crazy. No offense, but they're crazy. I can't say enough how good of a teammate he is. And that's the most important thing when you have as many young guys as we have on our team. And Mike's a little older and has been doing it for several years. Everyone talks about how great Antonio Brown is - and he is - but the reason Antonio is going to get open - not the only reason - but one of the reasons Antonio is going to get open is because Mike is stretching the field. Any time that Mike is on the field, he commands two guys eyes, whether it's the cornerback and the safety, but somebody's always going to be keeping an eye on him. Mike is going to open up the field for Antonio, Emmanuel, Jerricho, Heath Miller, our backs, and that's just the way it goes. And Mike gets frustrated sometimes when he's not getting 100 yards a game, but I tell him that's the ultimate compliment - you're being double and triple teamed because they're scared of you. So that's what Mike brings to this team and that's why we want and will be excited when he gets back here."
The Steelers' offense averaged just north of three yards a play in the loss Thursday night. While the full playbook won't be in use during the preseason, the lack of protection was as much a factor in the popgun passing display they put forward (99 total passing yards) as the lack of a field-stretcher like Wallace. Still, it could be a concern moving ahead to the regular season.
There haven't been any talks between the Steelers and Wallace in regards to his contract, and the Steelers have made it known they won't negotiate while a player sits out training camp.