The 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers’ season to date has been defined by one word — drama.
Whether it was Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement talk this off-season, Le’Veon Bell’s holdout, the national anthem protest, Antonio Brown’s tirade on the sideline during the Week-4 game against the Baltimore Ravens or Ben Roethlisberger suggesting he “might not have it anymore” after his 5-interception affair at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Everywhere you turn, there’s drama. It seemingly follows the team like a magnet, but at what point do players realize their actions are going to cause reactions? Didn’t we all learn in science class how with every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction?
I guess not, but one thing players could do in the future to minimize drama and its impact on the team is to get a thicker skin regarding some of the media’s responses to the team’s various issues and events.
Most recently, Le’Veon Bell and former Steelers safety Ryan Clark got into a Twitter spat after Clark criticized the Pittsburgh locker room and certain players. Then, Ben Roethlisberger had this to say to reporters on Wednesday during his usual media gathering at the beginning of the new work-week:
Roethlisberger on questions surrounding his 'maybe I don't have it anymore': 'That's fine. They can question me. I don't question myself...No offense to any of you guys, but it doesn't matter to me how you guys question me or not or quote-on-quote professional talking heads."— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 11, 2017
As someone who writes about the Steelers on a daily basis, players cannot be offended by the media for giving their opinions or using the words coming out of players’ mouths as headline articles in the days afterwards.
As for Clark and Bell’s little song-and-dance, Bell should realize Clark isn’t employed by the Steelers anymore, but is now part of the media. He gives his opinion and he gives his take on the situation as a former member of the Steelers organization. He shouldn’t have to cater to the current players’ feelings on anything regarding the team.
Some players (e.g. Jerome Bettis) would likely never criticize their former team for fear of burning bridges in the Steel City. But it’s Clark’s right to be critical of the team, and Bell should learn to hold back or turn the TV/phone off once in a while, to ensure he stays focused on the task at hand.
Regarding Roethlisberger, when you say to the media following a horrible game, “maybe I don’t have it anymore” whether you’re being sarcastic or not, they’re going to quote those words extensively. It’s their job. If you don’t like it, pull a Bill Belichick and give repetitious, one-word answers—and they’ll stop asking. When was the last time you saw James Harrison making headlines for something he said to the media? Not recently, because he’s never open with the media.
Players can hate the media all they want, but reporters are only doing their jobs. All of this reeks of some weak-minded individuals on the team, and something they’ll hopefully learn from. Bell can’t go back and take back his tweet directed at Ryan Clark, but he can learn to just let things go. Clark’s evaluation of the team/locker room should have absolutely no influence on the Steelers in any way, shape or form.
When we get down to brass tacks, maybe it’s time the Steelers develop a thicker skin, learn to put criticisms on the back burner and focus on the task at hand. What is that? Winning football games.
Ultimately, these issues will completely evaporate if they start winning again. Ryan Clark won’t have anything to criticize if the Steelers’ offense starts clicking and they go on a run. Ben Roethlisberger won’t have to answer questions about his poor play if he starts to right the ship and throws more touchdowns than interceptions.
For the veterans on this football team, expectations are much higher, both on and off the field.