I’m gonna dive right in because this topic excites me greatly. If you aren’t familiar by now, here’s the abridged version: Martavis Bryant is a little bit irked about the fact that Ben Roethlisberger, the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers, told reporters that he was “let down” in the wake of Bryant’s season-long suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Nothing Roethlisberger said was particularly volatile, but Bryant was offended nonetheless.
The Pittsburgh Steelers never fail to keep things interesting in the offseason, and a public beef between one of the league’s best quarterbacks and one of the league’s most explosive receivers is about as interesting as it gets. Let’s deconstruct this beef:
Why is Bryant upset about this?
Hard to say. Maybe “annoyed” is a better term. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Bryant said that he wants to have a “man-to-man” conversation with Roethlisberger to clear the air, because “some of the things that he [Roethlisberger] put out there about me, I kind of didn’t agree with how he did it.”
And Bryant said this...last week? Isn’t the timing a little odd?
It is, yes. Roethlisberger voiced his concerns over a year ago, giving Bryant plenty of time to formulate a response. The fact that he’s elected to take his concerns public this close to training camp is a little bit strange. Bryant’s comments also imply that he and Ben have not yet had this sit-down, which, again, strikes me as peculiar.
So who is right? It seems like Bryant is being a little bit sensitive.
He is, especially since, you know, he was the one who messed up in the first place.
The path on which Bryant is traveling is not unprecedented, and many similarly talented players (included several receivers) have essentially thrown their careers away due to their inability to escape their respective off-field vices. Having already faced two suspensions for substance abuse issues, Bryant is one strike away from potentially being blacklisted from the NFL.
Roethlisberger undoubtedly understands this, what with having once faced his own crossroads during the prime of his professional career and all.
In that case, shouldn’t Ben maybe have kept his comments private?
I think he probably should’ve stayed quiet, but I know nothing of he and Bryant’s relationship.
Roethlisberger has called out Bryant publicly on numerous occasions. Before Pittsburgh’s game against the Bengals in the 2015 AFC Playoffs, for instance, Roethlisberger said that Bryant needed to “toughen up,” which was a comment that was ripe with surface-level malevolence, but saturated with deeper meaning. Bryant accepted this challenge, catching five passes and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s victory over Cincinnati before going bananas against Denver’s top-ranked secondary the following week. In this way, maybe Bryant is the kind of player who responds well to public criticism. Maybe Roethlisberger understands this, which is why he took his thoughts public.
But, I’m going to offer a somewhat controversial opinion: Bryant is being a little bit too sensitive, but Ben was wrong to put his displeasure in the public domain and then failing to speak with Bryant directly.
I think we can all recognize that not all professional athletes are bound by brotherhood. NFL players are tax-paying employees like you and me, and like you and me, the average NFL player probably does not see eye-to-eye with several of his co-workers. Basically, I’m not naive enough to believe in “veteran leadership," at least in definite terms. Some veteran players are terrific role models and go out of their way to offer counsel to their younger counterparts. Other veterans, like Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, do not. (According to former teammate Martellus Bennett, that is. I urge you to watch this.) In other words, Roethlisberger should not have to feel responsible for Bryant. If he doesn’t feel personally responsible for Bryant’s well being, then he shouldn’t have made any public comments. If he does, then he should’ve taken it up with Bryant privately. And if he did go public, he should’ve consulted Bryant afterward.
Should we be concerned about what impact this will have on the offense?
Doubtful. This will not affect their on-field chemistry. But the two of them should probably sit down and figure this whole issue out.