If you are a former Pittsburgh Steelers player who is looking for some air time this week, there are few places better to be than radio row at the Super Bowl in Atlanta. If you have comments you would like to share about the state of your former team, it would appear there are hundreds of radio outlets all under one roof who would love to hear from you.
Hines Ward was the latest guest of the day along radio row on Thursday, popping up on several sports talk shows to discuss his thoughts about the current drama in Pittsburgh. Echoing many of the sentiments that all the other voices associated with the team have shared in the past few days, perhaps the only way in which Ward distinguished himself from the others was how little how blamed Antonio Brown for the situation by comparison to Mike Tomlin or Ben Roethlisberger.
Speaking on The Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan, Tomlin’s name was the first one out of his mouth when asked about the issues plaguing the Steelers.
“I just think the culture that was set by Mike Tomlin. You walk around that building and the standard is the standard, that’s kind of the motto. Well, the shenanigans, the circus is not conducive to winning football and that’s not the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
“Antonio Brown, I’m not going to put all the blame on him, but he needs to be held accountable for his actions. When they pay you that type of money, it’s not just what you do on the field, it’s what you do off the field, it’s what you do in the community. And I think for the Rooney family to invest so much in the player, I think it’s kind of disrespectful that if Mr. Rooney calls and you don’t answer the phone, it’s disrespectful in itself. I’ve got Mr. Rooney on speed-dial so if he ever calls me, I know that’s the one phone call that you might want to pick up.”
“I just think for Coach Tomlin. The way he handles certain players and try to treat players differently and stuff, I think you’re opening up a can of worms in that sense. Look at Coach Belichick, what he did to Malcolm Butler, a guy who helped win the Super Bowl. Late for one meeting and he sat him out in the biggest game in the world. And I think you look at AB, what he did with the Facebook Live and there was really no hard punishment for that. You have to set the tone early because players are only going to get away with what you get away with, but once you start creeping into them and letting it get by, sweeping it under the rug and things don’t go well. The Steelers have too much talent not to make the playoffs and that’s a reflection of the head coach.”
While Ward still believes the Steelers can reconcile with Brown, it would seem he feels something needs to be done with the quarterback as well.
“I get it Ben, you're the captain, your’e wearing the C on your chest, but when you do a radio show every week and you criticize players publicly. We always had a motto when I was playing with Casey Hampton, Jerome, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, Brett Keisel - ‘Keep my name out of your mouth in the media.' Do not go out there and talk and criticize or anything in the media because your’e just creating more distractions.”
Ward must be forgetting that time he called out Big Ben in the media for not playing in a game against the Baltimore Ravens because he was suffering from a concussion. He is also appears to be forgetting his 15-day holdout in 2005 during which he did not communicate with anyone on the team either.
Although the rest of his interviews throughout the day were essentially more of the same with Stephen A. Smith of ESPN and with SiriusXM Radio, it was disappointing to see him appear in an interview with Patriots Fan TV, otherwise known as Barstool Sports.
Feeding them the sort of soundbites their fanbase would love to hear, Ward confessed his embarrassment over the state of the Steelers and his admiration for the Patriots. He would even back down from his previous public statements suggesting New England had cheated in the past in their games against Pittsburgh.
“It is embarrassing to be honest with you, that’s just not the culture, the Steelers’ culture. I look at what happened with Malcolm Butler, being late for a meeting and then missing the Super Bowl. That’s the culture and that’s the Patriots way, there’s no one guy that’s bigger than the team. You do what coach Belichick says and everyone else is held accountable.”
“I just think the culture in Pittsburgh has changed a little bit. It’s more about the production on the field outweighs what the overall team aspect is. And when you start to get a bunch of individuals worrying about how many catches they get or how many this or who’s making this type of money, it just sets up for a disaster for the team.”
Changing his tune from the man who often criticized New England for the the lack of integrity they have shown over the years, Ward was quick to acknowledge he did not feel that way anymore.
“I jumped off that bandwagon, I’ve got nothing but respect for what the Patriots have done and Tom Brady.”
Considered Ward was hoping to have been named the Steelers new wide receiver coach back in 2018 after Richard Mann retired, it is hard to imagine how he would have handled working under a head coach whose methods he questions so openly. And while Tomlin is never likely to address Ward’s remarks publicly, it is hard to believe they will have endeared him towards the former Steelers receiver for the future should a job opening arise again.