Ben Roethlisberger publicly rebuking a Steelers teammate is nothing new

Ben Roethlisberger publicly rebuking a Steelers teammate is nothing new
Video ben roethlisberger leader of men days of our steelers

It should come as absolutely no surprise that Ben Roethlisberger publicly rebuked a teammate; he’s done so before—many times, in fact—and will likely continue to do so, as is apparently his right as the self-proclaimed “leader” of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The latest victim of Roethlisberger’s vexation is rookie receiver James Washington, who did this in a 24-17 loss to the Broncos last Sunday:

Yikes. So, yeah, there’s little doubt that, by simply maintaining his gait for the duration of his route, Washington would’ve scored a touchdown—possibly the game-winning touchdown, but at the very least a game-altering touchdown. Alas, Washington, perhaps somewhat foolishly, opted to transform an otherwise routine play into a spectacular one, and the decision backfired. Washington is a rookie, and, as rookies are often wont to do, he made a mistake. C’est la vie, you know? Besides, Washington’s drop was but one of many calamities that underpinned Pittsburgh’s losing effort, so it feels a little ridiculous for anyone—especially the guy who threw two interceptions, including one that ended a potential comeback bid—to pinpoint a singular moment as being more or less significant than any of the others. It probably would’ve behooved the Steelers to just move forward and shift their attention to the Chargers, who are insanely talented and more than deserving of every bit of Pittsburgh’s attention. Roethlisberger felt otherwise. Speaking to 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger said the following about Washington’s non-catch (per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review):

“He has to make it. I just think he didn’t trust his hands. For some reason, he jump/dove. I’m not really sure what he was doing. We look at it (on film), and coach got on him pretty good yesterday. We took a long, hard look at it. James needs to run through that, and it’s a touchdown…Yes, he’s a rookie, but you’re not going to be out there if you‘re not going to make those plays for us.”

In the same interview, speaking on his own proclivity for turning the ball over (Roethlisberger’s thrown 12 interceptions this season, which leads the NFL), Roethlisberger said the following:

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“Sometimes those things happen. I’m a quarterback that is going to go out and sling it. You talk about gunslinger or whatever you want to talk about. I’m not going to worry about interceptions. I hate doing them. They bother me. But I’m going to go out and play my game and try to help us win football games.”

Which, you know, okay. That’s fine. Ben Roethlisberger is the longest-tenured player on the Steelers. He’s a two-time Super Bowl winner. He is among the most prolific passers in league history. It could reasonably argued that, if he maintains his current output for another couple of seasons and wins another Super Bowl, he could insert himself in the “top 10 all-time” conversation. If he retired tomorrow, though, he’s still likely headed for the Hall of Fame. That resume, coupled with the fact that star quarterbacks are generally unassailable, allows Roethlisberger to speak honestly on whatever topics he deems worthy of his candor.

But it feels a little, I don’t know, tacky to air grievances with teammates to the media. Throwing teammates under the bus is one thing, but doing so in the same interview in which you deploy the If you can’t stand me at my worse, you don’t deserve me at my best rationale to defend your own mistakes seems incredibly tone-deaf. Wednesday, a day after Roethlisberger’s initial comments had the opportunity to marinade within our collective consciousness and ultimately metastasize into something newsworthy, Roethlisberger doubled-down. This, per ESPN:

“Being around for a long time, being with a lot of different players, you have to know how to motivate guys in different ways. That’s part of being a leader and a captain – just understanding players. Sometimes you just grab them off to the side, sometimes you have to be honest with them. And so, I think I’ve earned the right to be able to do that, as long as I’ve been here. And I’ll be just as critical on myself in front of you guys as well. I would hope they would understand that as a quarterback and a captain that I have the right to do those things. I don’t feel I abuse that situation. I don’t think there’s an issue, but you’ll have to ask them.”

(That last part is interesting. Suppose you do ask them; what kind of responses can even you expect? I would be thoroughly shocked if anyone offered a response that wasn’t laden with sportsy axioms or public relations buzzwords. “Well, Ben, he’s a grizzled vet, a future Hall of Famer. Us guys have total respect for his wisdom and insights and we deeply value his criticism blah blah blah.” Just once I wanna see someone be like “Ben? Oh, that guy totally sucks. We all hate him and are counting the days until his retirement.”)

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Captain Ben Roethlisberger: Expert Motivator and Leader of Men. Could you even imagine if the roles were reversed on this? Like, imagine if JuJu Smith-Schuster complained about Ben overshooting him on what probably would’ve yielded a touchdown. Antonio Brown cannot even exhibit the meekest iota of displeasure without hearing about it from the local media, and meanwhile Roethlisberger criticizes teammates with alarming regularity because he’s “earned the right” and everyone kinda just plays along? Give me a break.

This is the part where I’ll point out that, as Roethlisberger alluded to in the above quote, is very often critical of his own performance. Last week after a furious, balls-of-steel comeback against the Jaguars, for example, Roethlisberger began his postgame interview by pointing out that said comeback wouldn’t have been required had he avoided committing three ugly turnovers in the 59 minutes and 55 seconds that preceded his game-winning touchdown dive. But I don’t think that honest and sincere self-deprecation should necessarily grant you the ability to dump on teammates. And, while I think Roethlisberger’s credentials certainly enable him to deliver criticism with impunity, I don’t think it’s a great look to actually go through with it.

With all of that said, there are three things that I do not know: I do not know if Roethlisberger is right or wrong about his assertion that he “understands players” and is therefore well-informed when it comes to providing guidance, or whatever; I don’t know the relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and James Washington; and I don’t know how the rest of the team feels about Roethlisberger’s motivational tactics. James Washington’s rookie campaign has been mired by ineffectiveness and inconsistent playing time, so it seems, like, sort of mean to dump on the guy for what was a pretty innocuous sequence in the grand scheme of things. But Washington obviously has the potential to emerge as a volcanic, top-end playmaker in an offense replete with volcanic, top-end playmakers, so perhaps having to eat a little crow will serve him well. Regardless, it would be nice if the team’s star quarterback could be a little kinder to his teammates.

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