For weeks, stories have been percolating about the problems within the Steelers locker room.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had finally heard enough.
As valuable as any salary cap space he created, Roethlisberger tried to restore some peace inside his own team.
“For anybody to say there are locker room issues or leadership issues are completely off base,” Roethlisberger told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I believe that’s the frustration. I believe that it’s frustration of last year, I honestly do.”
What began as anonymous criticizing of linebacker LaMarr Woodley grew until players began talking more and more about the internal strife, with safety Ryan Clark saying there was a “fracture” in the locker room.
“Obviously, last year was frustrating for all of us, and when you’re frustrated and the season doesn’t go the way you want it to and things don’t go the way you want them to, things are said. I know all too well, after the Dallas game I was frustrated and said some things,” Roethlisberger said. “The important thing to know is, there are no issues in our locker room. There are no issues with LaMarr. There are no issues on our team.
“The big thing for us is to move forward. Last year was last year, it was 8-8. We’re not happy about it. There are frustrations, but you know what? We’re done with it. We’re moving forward and we’re moving into this year … with whoever’s here, we’re looking to move forward. And we know Woodley’s going to be here and we know Woodley’s going to be ready to go as we all are going to be.”
Roethlisberger took exception with the idea it was a leadership issue.
“No matter how the season goes, there’s always going to be some kind of issue come up,” he said. “There’s never perfect harmony in any locker room, never. There’s always going to be some issue at some point in the year, that’s how it works. But the thing is, how do you move on from it? These things should be put in the rear-view mirror and we should be looking forward.
“I’m hoping by doing this to put a stop to it, to say, listen, everybody, as a leader in this locker room, as a guy who has been around here for a long time, I’m hoping that by saying there is no issue and this is fine, that this could be our exclamation point. Let’s move on with this offseason, to training, to getting ready. I don’t think there’s a reason to look back anymore.
“That’s what I’m hoping to just say: Done.”
Of course, saying there are no issues on an 8-8 team with as much chatter as this one has created is one thing. Making it the truth is something entirely different, and will prove to be more of a challenge for Roethlisberger and the Steelers.