The Steelers actually handled themselves in a very business-like manner this week.
Art Rooney II met with disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown down in Florida, and the two decided it was best to part ways. Also, via general manager Kevin Colbert, the organization announced that it would not be transition or franchise tagging Le’Veon Bell, an option that was still on the table even after the veteran running back sat out all of 2018 rather than play on the $14.5 million tag.
It seemed like a fine and dignified way to move on from two players that gave the organization and its fans a lot of great memories in recent seasons, memories that will surely be cherished by the ones who made them and the ones who enjoyed them many years from now when the smoke has cleared and the feelings have softened.
Clearly, however, that time is not now.
And then Colbert addressed the leadership style of Ben Roethlisberger and had the audacity to outright say the veteran quarterback is the, you know, straw that stirs the drink in Pittsburgh. I’ll post Colbert’s quotes from his media session just in case you haven’t seen them, heard them or commented on them in a positive or negative fashion:
“If our guys were smart, they would listen to him because he’s been there, he’s done that. He can tell them, ‘No, guys, what you are doing is not good enough.’”
That Colbert quote was a big fat “duh” when I first heard it. It makes perfect sense. After all, Roethlisberger has, in fact, been there and done that—and he’s literally the only one left who has. I’m talking about Super Bowls and the parades that follow winning them.
Colbert said as much in a different part of his talk with the media on Wednesday:
“Once you win it, you have 53 guys who can say what it took. He’s the only one (we have). I have no problem with that.”
Had Colbert just said those things, it may have been fine. However, the quote that stuck in the craw of some people who like complaining had to do with Roethlisberger’s age and that he’s the eldest on the team:
“I honestly believe it can be a burden on him more often that he would like to admit,” Colbert said at the start of a meaty quote that would eventually give him more negative attention than he ever thought was possible (but anything is possible in 2019). “He has 52 kids under him. I want them to step up and say, ‘Ben, what do I have to do? Can I do this better? What do we have to do to win a Super Bowl?’”
It was, of course, the ‘52 kids’ part of the quote that has taken off as only such a thing could in this day and age of outrage for the sake of outrage.
Naturally, everyone has weighed in on it, including former players Louis Riddick, Shannon Sharpe and Dan Orlovsky, who on Twitter said: “Bill Belichick cusses out Tom Brady for mistakes in year 19 and Brady owns them. Always saying we we we/I have to do better. Kevin Colbert, the GM of the #Steelers calls Big Bens teammates his kids while he calls them out through the media. Just sayin...”
I know what you’re thinking, “Who’s Dan Orlovsky?” But you might also be offended by Colbert’s use of “kids” to describe Roethlisberger’s teammates.
Look, I know it’s 2019, and you might have a very strong urge to feel offended for Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden or Alejandro Villanueva (“He was an Army Ranger, damn it!”), but I get what Colbert was saying.
Right after John Elway finally ended his long and illustrious career in 1998—and did so by winning back to back Super Bowls—reporters commented on the age difference that existed between Elway, whose career began in 1983, and his much younger teammates. According to at least one reporter, Elway would be off in a corner of the locker room whistling some Bruce Springsteen song, while his younger teammates were blasting contemporary music.
Roethlisberger is heading into his 16th year, and according to my buddy, Bryan Anthony Davis, on our weekly podcast, the Hangover, last Monday, he either is or will be the longest-tenured Steeler.
In other words, much like Elway, Big Ben has been around the block. He’s been through two head coaches and a few offensive coordinators. He’s seen it all, not only in the NFL, but as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Didn’t we complain about Roethlisberger’s lack of attention to detail back in his younger days? Wasn’t he once criticized for not watching as much film as the likes of Peyton Manning?
Now that he’s grown older and actually wants to be a leader (or, other people, such as his bosses, feel that he should be the leader), we bristle? We take exception?
You simply can’t win, I guess.
Actually, you can win. Ben Roethlisberger has, and he has the resume to prove it.
So while you may want to criticize the Steelers for being a circus, you should know that there’s nothing unusual about a future Hall of Fame quarterback with two Super Bowls under his belt being the unquestioned leader of his football team.
When it comes to this latest bit of Steelers drama, you are the one creating it, not them.