Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has spent so much time talking about the Steelers in the past week that we’re starting to wonder whether he covers any other team. (Writes the guy who has spent so much time in the past two weeks talking about the Dolphins.)
On Sunday, Rapoport added some more meat to his reporting on the Ben Roethlisberger situation.
Previously, Rapoport had cited frustrations with the direction as the sole source of Roethlisberger’s possible desire to seek a trade. Appearing on the latest edition of NFL Gameday Morning, Rapoport said that Roethlisberger has concerns about offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was characterized by Rapoport as an “ill-fitting” choice for the job. While both Roethlisberger and Haley reportedly bought in to the new approach entering the 2013 season, the ongoing struggles underscore that something isn’t working right.
Rapoport also mentioned that which we believe is at the heart of the situation: Roethlisberger’s contract. He’s due to make $12.1 million in 2014 and $11.6 million in 2015. Players at the top of the quarterback market — all of whom have fewer than two Super Bowl wins — are at or above $20 million per year.
It could be that both issues have driven the recent reports from NFL Network regarding Roethlisberger. Rapoport’s information possibly flows from an effort by the team to set up a Plan B in the event Roethlisberger insists on $20 million per year. Observations arising on Thursday night from Mike Silver of NFLN regarding Roethlisberger’s work ethic when away from the facility possibly trace to Haley, who could be trying to save his own job by throwing Roethlisberger under the bus.
While it’s considered bad form in the media to speculate about people’s sources (not that that’s stopped me before — or others who have speculated about mine), it’s fairly obvious that Silver has a pipeline to Haley. Earlier this year, for example, Silver shared on-the-record quotes from Haley regarding potential improvements to the offense as the team prepared to travel to London for a game against the Vikings. Prior to that, Haley told Silver the Pittsburgh offense was “shell-shocked” after losing center Maurkice Pouncey for the season in Week One against the Titans.
So when Silver shares inflammatory observations from unnamed team sources about Roethlisberger’s perceived work ethic, the most obvious source is Haley. At a minimum, Silver would have at least tried to run the theory by Haley before sharing it with a national audience.
Whether it’s money or Haley, either or both issues will need to be addressed after the season — especially once Roethlisberger connects the dots and realizes that his offensive coordinator either is telling tales out of turn or failed to do anything to support Roethlisberger when Silver inevitably ran the notion that Ben isn’t working hard enough past Haley.
“When someone is a source and they’re unnamed, they have an agenda,” Roethlisberger said Friday. “And their agenda is not winning football games and not helping this team. Whoever that agenda is coming from, they’re not helping us, they’re hurting us.”
Roethlisberger eventually may want to hurt Haley. While we hope it never comes to that, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers going into 2014 without major changes on offense, possibly coming after the situation between Roethlisberger and Haley comes to a head.
UPDATE 10:52 a.m. ET: Via Twitter, Silver says that he attributed the information to player sources on the air. Here’s the quote that was publicized by NFL Network via post-show email: “I am told Ben Roethlisberger is more engaged this year [and] doing a better job of preparation when he is at the facility. When he is away from the facility, he is no Peyton Manning. That is what I am told is the biggest obstacle to him staying in Pittsburgh over the long haul from their perspective. At this stage of his career he has to become a more cerebral player and not just become a physical wonder.”