Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Ben Roethlisberger misses mark in interview
If you somehow missed its promos the past two days, KDKA-TV scored an exclusive interview with Ben Roethlisberger.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback made his first public comments since the 2018 season ended short of the NFL postseason, after almost five months of silence.
What KDKA billed as “The Interview: Ben Roethlisberger” was a pre-emptive move by Big Ben to share his side of the story before the Steelers open voluntary organized team activities on Tuesday morning at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.
Bob Pompeani went one-on-one with Roethlisberger, with the first part of the interview airing during Monday’s 6 p.m. newscast and focusing on his relationship with Antonio Brown.
The All-Pro wide receiver took shots at Roethlisberger in talking his way into a trade to the Oakland Raiders – saying on HBO that Roethlisberger “feels like he’s the owner” – but Pompeani said Brown didn’t respond to KDKA’s requests for an interview.
The second part is expected to focus on the two-year contract extension worth $68 million, with a $37.5 million signing bonus, that Roethlisberger signed last month.
Big Ben missed the mark, only causing more questions.
1. What took so long?: That was Pompeani’s first query, and Roethlisberger’s response was weak.
“Well, in the offseason I like to be with family and just be away and stay away from the craziness because the media is my life during the football season,” he said. “So when I can get a break from it, I try to get a break from it.”
Roethlisberger has a weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan, talks to the local media Wednesday mornings and after every game. His media obligations are hardly cumbersome and he’s well compensated, so treating it as a burden was bogus – especially when his leadership was questioned by former teammates and NFL analysts alike this offseason.
2. What happened to Wi-Fi?: Pompeani pointed out the productivity of Roethlisberger and Brown, who connected for 74 touchdown passes.
KDKA also showed clips of Brown saying, “Ben’s my guy, man – I love him” and comparing their early-season inconsistency to a Wi-Fi connection.
This is where Roethlisberger played possum.
“I’ll start with saying you’re right. AB made me who I am. He was the greatest wide receiver I ever played with. The things that he did in this league and that we did together are amongst the best of all time,” Roethlisberger said.
“And you’re right, there were some great things and then, all of a sudden, it just kind of disappeared. And I’m not really sure where it went. We always worked through it. We always came out the other side smiling and hugged it out and enjoyed it and moved on. This time, I don’t know.”
Oh, Ben. We all know exactly what happened.
3. A fine line: Pompeani nailed the follow-up question, noting that Roethlisberger called out Brown on his radio show after the loss at Denver and asking if he took the public criticism of his teammates too far.
Roethlisberger called it a “fine line” and apologized for “saying too much.”
“I know I took some heat, and deservedly so,” Roethlisberger said. “I genuinely feel bad about that. And I’m sorry. Did I go too far after that Denver game? Yeah, probably.”
This is where Roethlisberger tried to explain himself, and did so awkwardly. He should have accepted responsibility for throwing the game-ending interception to a nose tackle in the end zone instead of blaming Brown’s route running.
But Roethlisberger attempted to explain his comment about wishing he’d thrown four consecutive passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster instead of forcing it to Brown.
“I can see where that comment was perceived to be negative toward AB but it wasn’t meant that way,” Roethlisberger said. “Just like everything during the season, it’s a compliment to AB because he’s doubled every single play. That’s why it’s still so amazing is he was able to do it through all the adversity of double and triple teams.
“It was more meant that I should’ve gone to JuJu because he was single-covered. And I regretted it. That’s the thing about the media and social media and things like that. As soon as you say (it), sorry only goes so far. You can’t take it back. I wish I could because if that’s what ruined our friendship and our relationship, then I’m truly and genuinely sorry about that.”
Finally, Big Ben was the bigger man.
That’s all he had to say. What’s a shame is that he didn’t say it last season, before the damage was done.
4. Lacking leadership?: That brought us to the big question, about how Roethlisberger is affected by claims that he’s not the leader that he should be.
“They were hurtful. It was hurtful to myself. It was hurtful to my family,” Roethlisberger said. “I always want to get better. I always strive to be the best that I can be, and last year we weren’t good enough. We lost six games. We didn’t make the playoffs.
“I need to, as a leader of that football team – because leadership ultimately is about winning football games – I didn’t do a good enough job because we didn’t make the playoffs.”
Leadership isn’t just about winning football games. It’s also about setting an example in practice and film sessions, accepting responsibility following losses and building relationships inside and outside the locker room.
But that’s not what bothered me most.
5. Fading friendship: As much as Roethlisberger seems to regret the trouble his comments caused, he said he still considers Brown “a good friend of mine.”
And we couldn’t care less.
Brown plays for the Oakland Raiders and Le’Veon Bell for the New York Jets but Roethlisberger is still a Steeler.
Instead of talking about what he’s learned about leadership throughout this offseason and what he’s trying to do better, Roethlisberger tried to share the role.
“There’s more than one leader in that locker room,” he said. “We’re lucky to have them – Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, just to name a few.”
There’s only one quarterback. Roethlisberger is the team’s most important player, not to mention its highest-paid and highest-profile player – even if he spent the offseason in silence while stories spun about him on social media.
Do the Steelers need Big Ben to be a better leader if they want to be a better team, one that makes the playoffs and wins another Super Bowl without Antonio Brown?
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .