In a recent interview, longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger opened up about his thoughts on the team — maybe he shouldn’t have.
As much as football is a brutally physical game, the strategy required to succeed creates an inextricable mental element. Ben Roethlisberger, the team’s franchise quarterback for 18 years, must be acutely aware of that.
So when Roethlisberger decided to offer his thoughts in an exclusive interview with The Pittsburgh Post=Gazette’s Ron Cook, he had to know that his comments wouldn’t be helping today’s locker room. Based on his comments, it didn’t seem like Big Ben was concerned about whom he might offend or the distractions he might cause.
During his interview, Roethlisberger called out Kevin Colbert for wanting him to leave (even though he feels like he could have played this year), college athletes for being “coddled”, and blamed Rashard Mendenhall for fumbling away Super Bowl XLV.
Below are Ben’s choice words for younger athletes entering the NFL with a “me-type attitude”:
"“I feel like the game has changed. I feel like the people have changed in a sense. Maybe it’s because I got spoiled when I came in. The team was so important. It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other.I might be standing on a soapbox a little bit, but that’s my biggest takeaway from when I started to the end. It turned from a team-first to a me-type attitude. It was hard. It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college. Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable. They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too. I know coach [Terry] Hoeppner never coddled me [at Miami of Ohio]. Neither did [Bill] Cowher.”"
Considering that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are from the same era and aren’t criticizing their younger teammates, it’s not a great look for Ben Roethlisberger. And if he did interact with younger players who weren’t focused on the team, he could have motivated them by setting an example and speaking with directly rather than denigrating an entire generation of players after retiring.
Ben Roethlisberger undermines Steelers players, brass in distracting interview
Of course, Roethlisberger wasn’t done quite yet. He also made sure everyone knew exactly who wanted him to retire and who didn’t, which serves no purpose to share at this point besides to make people look bad. Pitting Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert against Steelers owner Art Rooney publicly doesn’t change what happened — it just ensures that everyone is aware of who’s at fault for Ben’s departure.
"“It was mostly Kevin [Colbert]. He was ready to move on. I think Mike [Tomlin] was a little ready to move on, but I think he was OK with me coming back. I think Mr. [Art] Rooney really wanted me to come back last year to play. …I thought I went out on my terms. I never wanted to stay too long. I know some people might think I did. ‘You stayed last year.’ But I thought I played pretty well last year, to be honest. My arm feels like I still could go out and play. I’m pretty confident I could still play. But it’s every day. It’s mental. Not having to prepare for camp and the season has been the biggest blessing for me. I’m fine with where I’m at with everything.”"
Roethlisberger also seems to think that he could still play at an NFL level, ignoring the fact that his arm strength dwindled significantly in 2021 and was a major hindrance during the playoffs.
There was still more blame to go around, with Roethlisberger blaming his Super Bowl loss to the Packers on Rashard Mendenhall.
"“That was tough. It still stings. We lost [Maurkice Pouncey] right before that game. I still think, ‘What if? What if he’s able to play?’ He was such a different playmaker for us. I look back at it and think, man. …I know some Packers. I have talked to them. We were starting to make a little bit of a run, driving down the field. They were nervous. A couple of guys were like, ‘Here they go.’ It would have been fun to see what would have happened [if Rashard Mendenhall hadn’t fumbled].”"
Just because the Packers agree with Roethlisberger’s doesn’t mean that he needs to publicly blame a former teammate. Also, if Ben is a “team-first” guy like he proclaims to be, why would he blame a Super Bowl loss on one play? Turning points and momentum are factors that can genuinely influence the outcome of a game, but a loss cannot be drawn down to one mistake, as much as some may wish that were true. If the New England Patriots could overcome two turnovers that resulted in touchdowns in a Super Bowl, what’s Ben’s excuse?
Once again, if Ben were truly a “team-first” player, he wouldn’t have divulged all of this in an interview about retirement. He went out of his way to criticize contemporary players, anyone who doubted his playing ability, and his teammates from a Super Bowl in which he also contributed to the loss. Doing this ahead of training camp creates unnecessary turmoil and puts the spotlight back on him, which was clearly the intention.
Ben had nice things to say about the team’s current quarterbacks, offering advice about the kinds of players and leaders they should be. If only he followed that advice and offered the same kind of grace to the teammates and organization that supported him over the years.