Ben Roethlisberger ‘lacked in leadership’ for Steelers in non-playoff season
Ben Roethlisberger took the criticism from former teammates and NFL analysts to heart, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said Tuesday at the start of organized team activities.
“I lacked in leadership,” Roethlisberger said, “because that’s my job as the leader of this team, to get us to the playoffs.”
Roethlisberger’s on-field and locker-room leadership was widely questioned this offseason, first by All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown before he was traded and then by former Steelers running backs Josh Harris and Rashard Mendenhall. League pundits soon piled on.
“As professional athletes, we always talk about thick skin. Naturally, we have to have it to do what we do and deal with all of the things we have to deal with, from media to fans to opposing stadiums,” Roethlisberger said following practice at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side. “But I’d be lying if we didn’t say it doesn’t bother us at times. It does start to hurt. It affects your family. When it affects your family, then it can definitely affect you.
“You have to understand that we live in an amazing country, people have opinions and can say what they want. You just have to really focus on the guys that are here and make sure the guys are good. Everybody I’ve talked to is good with me.”
Roethlisberger said there is room for improvement in his leadership as he enters his 16th NFL season with a two-year contract, $68-million extension through the 2021 season. He said he plans to attend the voluntary OTAs – he missed most of the first two weeks last year for a family vacation – to build a better rapport with newcomers in receivers Donte Moncrief and Diontae Johnson and tight end Zach Gentry and young receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ryan Switzer.
“You’re talking leadership. You’re talking relationships. This sport, relationships change on a yearly basis because guys are here and gone. So you have to do your best to try and realize what it takes for each guy to develop the best relationship that you can,” Roethlisberger said. “When it comes to leadership and things like that, we didn’t make the playoffs last year. We didn’t win our division. So I lacked in leadership because that’s my job as the leader of this team to get us to the playoffs.
“I’m going to need to focus and refocus my energy and time on how can I be a better leader to get us back to the playoffs.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .