For those of you hoping to finally read some Ben Roethlisberger quotes in the wake of all the slings and arrows he has taken from departed ex-teammates, prepare to be excited.
For those of you hoping to see Roethlisberger retaliate in the same fashion, prepare to be disappointed.
Actually, don’t even expect the Steelers quarterback to address those issues directly at all.
That’s probably on purpose.
Roethlisberger spoke to Steelers.com Tuesday. It was the first time he has been quoted since Antonio Brown called out Roethlisberger for having an “owner’s mentality,” Le’Veon Bell accused Roethlisberger of freezing out players and Josh Harris claimed Big Ben once fumbled on purpose to show up Todd Haley.
The Steelers’ signal-caller was one of many veterans who showed up for Phase 1 of offseason workouts Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“We want to show we are here, dedicated to this team, dedicated to having a great season,” Roethlisberger said to the team’s official website. “We are all about each other.”
That was about it. Click the link. Read for yourself. There were a few other nuggets about throwing for the first time since the Week 17 season finale and getting in a few workouts. But that was the only quote that resonated with me.
And it did so because Roethlisberger said a lot without saying much at all.
He didn’t have to say the names of any of the players out loud. By discussing who was there, Roethlisberger was less-than-subtly telling us that he appreciated who was still in Pittsburgh more than he was concerned about who left.
Given Bell’s yearlong absence in 2018 and Brown going AWOL in Week 17, it wasn’t an accident that Roethlisberger used the word “dedicated” twice in the span of four words.
It also wasn’t an accident that he stressed how the team was “about each other” after two star players who were clearly in football for themselves jumped ship.
Keep in mind we are discussing a team publication. If Roethlisberger had said: “I always hated each of those guys, and I couldn’t be happier they are gone. I was sick to death of the sideshow and Pittsburgh is a better city without them living here,” the team may not have posted the quote if it felt it would do more harm than good.
Which it would’ve. Which is why Roethlisberger wouldn’t say such a thing.
Could you blame him if he did, though? I couldn’t.
If Roethlisberger has a more venomous opinion about those who have besmirched him, he has been wise to keep those opinions to himself because a quote-for-quote retaliation would merely keep the dialogue going.
At that point, he would get into the territory JuJu Smith-Schuster posted about when he tweeted an old Mark Twain saying.
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019
At some juncture, though, Roethlisberger is going to have to speak publicly and not in a controlled environment. Not just on his own radio show. Not strictly to the team website. And he’s going to be pressed for more specific answers.
He’ll probably evade those answers like the Arizona front seven during that game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLIII. But he might have to come up with something more specific than that.
Forget himself. If Ben doesn’t want to play a game with former teammates on social media and is willing to allow the quotes from Brown, Bell and Harris to stand without refuting, that’s his choice.
But some pretty rotten things were suggested by those guys about Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, Art Rooney II and the Steelers as a business. For decades, the Steelers have been portrayed as one of the best organizations in football to join. In roughly a year and a half, though, the franchise has been stained as one that doesn’t value its employees.
As a captain of the squad, that’s where I’d like to see Roethlisberger stand up and say something more. Something in direct defense of the management and emblem that has publicly defended him so often this offseason.
And at other times during his career as well.
Playing the strong, silent type is fine for Roethlisberger — himself — now. And saying minimal words still got an effective message across to the the public.
If he wants to polish his image as a leader, though, an extended thought or two in the near future may do the team some good, even if it’s not Roethlisberger’s preference.