The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their share of drama the past there seasons. Whether it was Le’Veon Bell’s franchise tag mess, or the Antonio Brown drama, the one thing which has been trending lately is throwing Ben Roethlisberger into the fire as well.
Bashing on Ben Roethlisberger is nothing new for fans of other teams and national media. Since his allegations in both Nevada and Georgia, everyone has been skeptical of the man they call ‘Big Ben’. At first, it was questioning him as a person. His off-field antics were a part of several articles painting him in the light of a young superstar who believes he is above everyone, including the law at times.
As Roethlisberger settled down, married and is the father of three children, these stories began to slowly fade away. With them gone, now people are starting to attack Roethlisberger as a teammate and leader. Former players and teammates from Ryan Clark to Emmanuel Sanders have publicly spoken about how Roethlisberger isn’t a leader, and isn’t a good teammate.
As Roethlisberger’s name has been beaten like a dead horse throughout his time in the NFL, many times at no one’s fault but his own, Sports Illustrated was just the latest to run a piece on how Roethlisberger is lacking in the leadership department, and is a large reason for the dysfunction not just with the team, but the organization.
Author Robert Klemko had this to say about the Steelers’ signal caller, citing both Joshua Harris and Isaac Redman during the article.
In the social media storm that comes with the first days of free agency, a lot can fly under the radar. So you might have missed this salvo from an ex-Steelers running back, who responded to a post describing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ “real locker room problem” in the wake of the Antonio Brown trade and Le’Veon Bell’s lost season.
Josh Harris, who went undrafted out of Wake Forest and played his only NFL season with the Steelers, in 2014, says during that season, Roethlisberger intentionally fumbled a ball at the end of a game to protest a play call. “At that moment I knew what kinda person he was,” Harris wrote.
According to Harris, Roethlisberger just wasn’t interested in getting to know his teammates, and that has come back to bite the Steelers.
“Ben is a great player but he doesn’t try to connect with teammates,” Harris told me this week. “During my time there, I had conversations with vets like, Heath Miller, William Gay, Cam Heyward, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Will Allen, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Bruce Gradkowski, even James Harrison, but never Ben. Troy made an effort to talk guys. Not Ben though. And it was like that for others too.
“He is close with the O-Line and maybe a few guys here and there, but for the most part he stays to himself. During practice when the team would be warming up a lot of times he would be sitting on the water coolers reading the newspapers. So when Ben is critical of players publicly without having a relationship with them, it can rub them the wrong way because they don’t know if it is out of love or what. And when you call out All-Pro guys, that definitely doesn’t sit well with them.”
The one factor about Harris’ comments is the short period of time he spent with the Steelers. Just one year, 2014, and hardly played during that time. Redman, on the other hand, spent more time in Pittsburgh and would give a better glimpse into the locker room and Roethlisberger’s demeanor.
Isaac Redman, who played five seasons in Pittsburgh (2009-13), agreed with Harris.
“He does have a lot of power in that team, and some guys like AB may feel like they should be on a different level, that Ben shouldn’t be criticizing him publicly,” Redman says. “When you just only see the guy in the locker room and on the field and you get to a radio show and you say something bad, it’s going to rub guys the wrong way. Some stuff should be kept in house. You come to them, you don’t put it out in the public. When you do that, you open yourself up to criticism.”
While that seems like a very damning statement, Redman would continue showing Roethlisberger’s actions might have been intentional.
“I think everybody has different personalities,” Redman says. “Could he have done more to bring guys together? Yes, but he was never a problem in the locker room. I don’t think he shied away from guys, I just think he was really careful about who he surrounded himself with.”
To think Roethlisberger might be guarded after the allegations early in his career shouldn’t shock anyone, but where are the teammates sticking up for Roethlisberger? Not all of the players who played alongside No. 7 had a negative image of him and thought he was a bad teammate, so why haven’t they spoke out?
Recently a fan asked offensive guard Ramon Foster this very question, and Foster’s response was very candid:
Never argue with a fool, those from a distance can’t tell who’s who ♂️. They’d never listen anyway. Narratives have already been written. Playing clean up doesn’t work for illogical people. https://t.co/nJm5HyEJOB— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) March 13, 2019
While Foster is certainly correct, it wouldn’t hurt for a couple of players to come out and talk, give an interview, or even do a radio spot and speak highly of the man who makes them a whole lot of money as the franchise quarterback.
Either way you slice it, the blame game has been going through the Steelers’ organization for the last three seasons, and has finally come to a head. Some blame Bell. Some blame Brown. Some blame Mike Tomlin. Some blame Kevin Colbert. Some blame Art Rooney II. And it is now Ben Roethlisberger’s turn to take his turn in the game.
Will this mean anything? Will anything change? I doubt it, but it will make for an interesting interview when Roethlisberger steps back in front of a microphone for the first time since the season ended last year with the Steelers out of the playoffs.