If the offield drama that surrounds the Pittsburgh Steelers is to ever end, it will require the national media finding another topic to fill the offseason. But if fans are to be able to disconnect themselves from some of the pointless narratives that appear to be following their team as of late, it will probably require them turning off the NFL Network.
Among the national broadcasters, it is somewhat of a surprise to note that no outlet seems to be enjoying fanning the flames of dissent in Pittsburgh more than the network owned and run by the NFL. The apparent dysfunction in the Steel City has been discussed ad nauseam on the NFL Network’s many shows from dawn till dusk, with opinion coming from everyone and anyone the broadcaster can get their hands on.
On Friday, it was the turn of former Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter to have his five minutes of airtime on the state of the locker room in Pittsburgh, a rare guest on the show and someone who at least actually had a connection to the team.
Responding to questions about Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership and the issues between him and Antonio Brown, Porter left no doubt who he felt was at fault, suggesting that Big Ben had taken far too long to apologize to his former teammate.
“You know, it’s kind of like, once you have a bad situation, they’re not going to be pick up the phone. If you feel slighted by any way, with any teammate, friend, teammate, once you feel like you’d been betrayed in any type of way, I’m not picking up your phone call. You can’t call me and say, “oh, I’m sorry” the next day. I need you to be sorry when you did it. You can’t be sorry that late. So, those relationships went the other way.”
“Now that he’s being a man and apologizing now, it’s just a couple days too late. All of that could have probably been avoided if he was coming to them and saying, “you know what, I didn’t handle that the right way”, but, that’s the way he chose to go about it and apologize now and it’s just a little too late.”
Critical of how Roethlisberger uses his power within the organization, Porter portrayed the quarterback as player who is not as beloved in the locker room as he once was when he was a leader of the team.
“It’s clear that he has the power. And how he uses it, he uses it for him. You love to see the guy like when Jerome was our captain, and when I was moving into that role, you want the locker room to love you the whole time. I never wanted to go up top to the front office and really talk to them ...”
“Now Ben on the other hand, he’s accepted in that world. And when they [teammates] see him not using it for them, but only for himself, you’re going to have some animosity there and I think once it got so bad, it was good for AB to go his way, L Bell to go his way. Ben isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be the future. He’s going to be there for as long as he wants to be there.”
“If you treat everybody fair, and that’s what it comes down to, guys want to be felt like treat me fair. Even if it isn’t fair, fake me out to make me think that it’s good and then I’ll give you everything, but when you show me you have it way better than me, you’re going to create resentment.”
Without any examples from Porter about Roethlisberger using his power only for himself, it is frankly impossible to have any idea what the former linebackers coach is alluding to with his remarks. Some observers might even suggest that the position Big Ben holds in the organization is no different to any other franchise quarterback around the league.
Claims that Roethlisberger took too long to apologize to Brown seem a little harsh given that Porter appears to consider anything longer than 24 hours too long. He also seems to completely discount Big Ben's assertion that he attempted to communicate with AB on multiple occasions late last year when he became aware of a problem.
It will be up to the individual to decide if Porter’s words are in anyway motivated by not having his contract renewed by the Steelers, but it has to be wondered how well other teams around the league will view his remarks when considering him for a coaching hire in the future.
One day this story will end, but not until the NFL Network has milked it for all it is worth.