John Steigerwald: Steelers players must learn from Ben Roethlisberger | TribLIVE.com
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John Steigerwald: Steelers players must learn from Ben Roethlisberger

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AP
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes in the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati.

Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t always a leader.

Whether he is now or ever was one seems to be an ongoing debate both locally and nationally.

He is happy to claim that he is, and his boss, Kevin Colbert, backed him up on that Feb. 20 when he said, “Ben’s the unquestioned leader of this group … he has 52 kids under him, quite honestly. I want them to step up and say, ‘Hey, Ben, what do I gotta do? Can I do this better?’”

Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown probably didn’t ask Roethlisberger, “What they gotta do,” before they made contract decisions that resulted in them leaving town and becoming two of the biggest villains in Pittsburgh sports history.

Bell is getting more ridicule than hate from the fans and media because his deal from the New York Jets was less than he could have made if he had played for the Steelers last year. The guess here is that he laughed a lot on the way to the bank after getting $35 million guaranteed on a $52 million contract. He doesn’t seem to be getting any credit for making the decision to take a shot at free agency, knowing that the worst-case scenario probably would be a little better than what he ended up getting.

Bell was 25 in 2017 when he held out the first time.

Antonio Brown did a really good job of making an idiot of himself on the way to being traded to the Oakland Raiders and, despite being 30, appears to have reached the maturity level of a high school sophomore.

It might be time for him to grow up, but do you remember what Ben Roethlisberger was like before he grew up?

Brown took a lot of well-deserved heat for getting caught driving over 100 mph on McKnight Road.

Roethlisberger was almost killed in a motorcycle accident when he was 24. Not wearing a helmet may not qualify as bad behavior, but it’s pretty dumb.

What do you think the perception of Roethlisberger would have been if, after all the prayers and outpouring of support following the accident, KDKA-TV had decided to run the video shot by a reporter that showed him, a few months later, riding a motorcycle without a helmet and making an obscene gesture toward the camera?

KDKA did the Steelers a favor and sacrificed good journalism to protect Roethlisberger from becoming a national story again.

From the time he arrived in 2004, in my 30 years of covering Pittsburgh sports, nobody came close to generating as many unsolicited “Hey what’s up with Roethlisberger, he’s really a _____” questions to me from fans as he did.

By all accounts, Roethlisberger has grown up. Maybe getting married and having kids did the trick. That seems to happen a lot. But if he’s going to lead young players, it can only be by giving them a huge dose of, “Don’t do what I did.”

John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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