Tim Benz: Right call if Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger ditches radio show
I’ve avoided this column for a while. Because no matter how fair I try to be, my opinions are going to be viewed with a jaundiced eye.
But now, national reports have attempted to lend some news value to the story. Based on how national opinions and stories have flown around the internet of late surrounding the Steelers, failing to follow up locally would just be failing to implement due diligence.
I’m talking about the report that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to cease doing his widely-listened-to radio program on 93.7 The Fan.
According to multiple sources, #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to relinquish his regular radio show in Pittsburgh prior to next season.
Roethlisberger is hoping that it helps his standing with teammates.
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) March 30, 2019
ProFootballTalk ran a similar story.
In an effort to see whether this report was true, I talked with multiple people at the radio station. No one has confirmed that such a decision was made. As of March 30 — the last time Ben Roethlisberger’s own webpage was updated — the show is still promoted.
That doesn’t mean either report is wrong. It just means the reporters may be speaking to different people in the company or getting information from Roethlisberger’s camp or from some other source within the team.
Giving up the radio show would be a wise decision for the quarterback.
I’m sure many will jump on that comment and say I have an agenda because I do on-air work for iHeart Radio (ESPN Pittsburgh, WDVE, WXDX), a competitor of 93.7’s parent company (Entercom) in the Pittsburgh market.
Others also will suggest that I’m writing this opinion because the two hosts of the weekly program — Ron Cook and Joe Starkey — are sports columnists for another publication in Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette.
That’s all true. And it needs to be pointed out. But those facts aren’t impacting my opinion.
I have no personal ax to grind with Starkey or Cook. And I have no investment in seeing ratings dip from 11:00-11:20 on KDKA-FM every Tuesday just because Big Ben is on the air.
After all, I’m right there listening with thousands of others, and the quarterback’s responses have been great fodder for this column on a weekly basis.
My opinion is formed based on Roethlisberger’s personal business, not mine.
Roethlisberger is fighting a battle of optics right now. A battle of perception. Fairly or not, many within the national media have decided to agree with the spin advanced by the likes of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and even Josh Harris. Their perception is that Roethlisberger is at fault for the toxicity evident in the Steelers locker room in recent years.
I’d argue against that. Those guys — particularly Bell and Brown — appeared to be the source of the infection and not victims of it.
But because so many have cited Roethlisberger’s radio show — especially the one after this season’s loss in Denver — as the origin of comments teammates didn’t appreciate, it may be wise for him to ditch the show.
It’d be an olive branch from Roethlisberger to those remaining on the team who may resent him for allegedly separating himself from the rest of the club by becoming his own PR agent.
Roethlisberger speaks with the media once a week, usually on Wednesdays. But those sessions are often arduous. Roethlisberger seems to dislike doing them as opposed to his radio show. They are often devoid of any new information as Roethlisberger usually spends most of them reiterating, or further explaining, things he said on his own program the day before.
As a player who doesn’t use social media on his own, as Brown and Bell have, Roethlisberger has chosen to utilize his radio platform to craft his own storylines for years.
Other players have similar shows. Ramon Foster has one on 93.7 as well. Cam Heyward has one on WDVE. So does Stephon Tuitt.
The difference I’ve noticed from those shows is that the news those players make may — in a worst-case scenario — inflame the opposing teams.
But I’ve never heard other Steelers players grouse about what those teammates have said on air in the same way Roethlisberger apparently ruffled the feathers of Brown, Todd Haley and even Mike Tomlin, at times.
Roethlisberger appears unable to help himself when he does the program. Maybe he feels the need to make that show a success with good content in a way that he doesn’t when meeting with the media at large.
And I’m all for good content. That makes for good headlines. Let’s be honest, though, the Steelers have generated far too many good headlines the last three or four years.
The fan in me wants to see Roethlisberger continue doing the show. The sports talk host and columnist in me wants to see him continue doing the show.
The logic in me says he shouldn’t.