Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been silent in the 15 days since facing new accusations of sexual assault. His teammates have been silent, too.
Well, most of them have been silent.
Punter Daniel Sepulveda recently joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to talk about a variety of subjects, one of which was the status of the man who, as Sepulveda acknowledged, is the unquestioned leader of the team.
The three-year player, who was a fourth-round draft pick in 2007 and currently is a restricted free agent, chose his words carefully when talking about Roethlisberger’s situation. But Sepulveda didn’t mince words, either; his disapproval of the situation clearly came through.
“It’s regrettable to see him struggling in the media the way he has in putting himself in these positions,” Sepulveda said. “You know, it’s hard to comment on that kind of thing. We’re going to be there for him as teammates in any way we can be to help him through these deals. I don’t know, he’s a very capable quarterback obviously. My locker’s next to his in the game locker room, and that’s on business day, you know that’s game day. So I don’t think I’ve said more than a couple sentences to him in the three years that I’ve been here even though we locker next to each other, but you know it’s all business on game day so you can’t read into that. . . . It’s tough to say, we’re gonna be there for him in any way that we can be, but you know it’s not cool to see him getting in trouble like this all the time.”
Three quick observations. First, if you listen to the interview, you’ll hear that Sepulveda was struggling with his words, hoping to say the right thing. Or, more accurately, to not say the wrong thing. Second, the fact that Sepulveda and Roethlisberger have lockers right next to each other on game day and Ben has hardly spoken to him is odd, to say the least. Seriously, how can Roethlisberger rarely talk to the guy who is right freaking next to him on the 16 most important days of the year? (In fairness to Ben, Sepulveda missed all of the 2008 season with a knee injury. Still, he was there for all of 2007 and 2009.)
And it’s noteworthy, in our view, that Sepulveda got his point across, in somewhat passive-aggressive style. He didn’t have to say anything about having lockers right next to each other and rarely having Ben say a word to him; the fact that he did so speaks volumes regarding the relationship — or lack of one — that these two teammates have.
Third, the internal talking points that apparently have been distributed to the players include a heavy dose of “we’re gonna be there for him,” since it was uttered twice in the comments set forth above, and it’s said twice again in the comments appearing below, regarding the possible impact of the charges on Ben’s ability to lead the team.
“Well, it’s not good,” Sepulveda said. “It certainly doesn’t help. But, you know what? Leading a football team, that’s an on and off the field thing. So, gosh, you know it’s not a great way to earn the respect of the rest of the guys on the team. But you know at the same time we are a team, he is our leader. We’re gonna be there for him in any way that we can be to help him through this because you know obviously he’s gonna get attacked as a result so, and that’s what the Steelers do, we stick together, we’re a team. And that starts with the leadership of the Rooney family. . . . and that culture runs all the way through to the punter. So, you know, we’re gonna be there for him.”
So, yes, they’re gonna be there for him. But at least one of them doesn’t seem to like it very much. And if that’s a reflection of the culture that runs all the way from the Rooneys through to the punter, Ben has a problem within the organization that he might never be able to overcome.