Ben’s backup says he didn’t fumble on purpose

Getty Images

One of the more unusual stories to come out of the NFL in the last week is the allegation that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fumbled on purpose late in the fourth quarter of a big game in 2014, just to spite offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The story sounds crazy, but it comes from a reputable source: The teammate who recovered the fumble, former Steelers running back Josh Harris.

However, another former teammate, Bruce Gradkowski, is saying the story is false. Gradkowski was Roethlisberger’s backup at the time and says he remembers the play well and is certain Roethlisberger’s fumble was an honest mistake, not a deliberate one. According to Gradkowski, Roethlisberger fumbled because the play had the fullback in the I-formation, when ordinarily the Steelers ran that type of play from an offset I-formation, and Roethlisberger didn’t realize the fullback was right behind him when he turned around to hand the ball off. Gradkowski says the Steelers changed their offensive terminology after that fumble to give the quarterback a reminder that the fullback would be directly behind him.

It seems odd that the Steelers would need to change their play calling after Week 17 because their veteran quarterback made such a fundamental mistake like that. Gradkowski’s explanation may be a more charitable explanation than Harris’s, but neither explanation speaks well for Roethlisberger.

30 responses to “Ben’s backup says he didn’t fumble on purpose

  1. Gradkowski’s explanation is more of an indictment of Roethlisberger then Josh Harris. Basically Roethlisberger wasn’t a petulant child, he was merely an idiot. A quarterback in week 17 that can’t remember the location of his fullback on a particular play. Gradkowski should have done Roethlisberger a favor and just remained silent.

  2. starting to sound like Ben has a future in politics when he retires.

    – sexual assault allegations – check
    – throws others under the bus – check
    – petty vengeance – check
    – his followers turn a blind eye – check

  3. After they corrected the playcall, it became known as “Y3 Green Left Off Step Hound 2 Z Basic Right Behind You Fatty.”

  4. The headline should have read:
    “Steelers teammate defends Ben for first time ever”

    To date, we’ve only heard former Steelers railing on Ben for calling out teammates, not being a leader, and fumbling on purpose.
    I don’t buy Bruce’s explanation, but it is a win for him that a single player finally took Ben’s side.

  5. Football coaches are pretty meticulous about what they do. They work, work, and work on the gameplan. They are anal about lining up 3 yards inside the numbers and not 3 1/2 yards. They are anal about coming out of your break at 12 yards and not 12 1/2 not 11 1/2. They rely on their gameplanning chart thing to the T.

    It strikes me as very odd that they would install a play on the gameplan and NOT practiced it during the week. If the FB is offset so be it… it is just interesting that they would deviate from their beloved gameplan and not communicate that to the players.

  6. The guys never seemed like the sharpest knife in the drawer. Either explanation just exemplifies that.

  7. peytonwantsaflag says:
    March 19, 2019 at 10:16 am
    Why all this he said, he said? Just go to the tape for crying out loud
    The tape shows Ben taking the snap, starting to turn with the ball in the hand-off position, the ball bumping the elbow area of the fullback and popping out of Ben’s hand, then Ben stumbling and falling to the ground like the whole thing took him by surprise and knocked him off balance.

    It sure doesn’t look intentional in my opinion.

    Also, is it so unbelievable that Ben was upset enough about having to run the play instead of kneeling down that he would not be concentrating enough and forgot where the fullback was? I think we have all made similarly stupid, but ultimately meaningless, mistakes while being distracted by something that irritates us.

  8. There is a lengthy article elsewhere that interviews current (at the time of writing) players including AB and Bell. They all say how much BR helped them in there careers, and invited them to his place in GA and out to CA to workout during the off-season. He even acknowledged that he realized that, early on, he wasn’t the greatest teammate in the world. Things, and people change, maybe he’s back to his old ways, who knows?

    I get a lot of people dislike him, and he only has himself to blame for that fact. But, the current “analyzing everything the guy does”, and trying to read an ulterior motive into it, or a fumble that is not that unusual in the course of a football game, is a little much. (IMO)

    Do I think he’s part of the locker room issues, yes. Do I think he’s the main issue, no. Tomlin’s one of the guys approach to coaching is the problem, again, in my opinion. What coach would verbalize to other players, who obviously were complaining about AB, that he will put up with his (AB’s) behavior as long as he’s producing? That statement just fanned the flames of the fire.

  9. I don’t think Ben would do anything deliberate that would result in anegative statistic against himself( he has a good sized ego). Think the fumble was a legitimate blown execution.

  10. Regardless of whether the fumble was on purpose or not, why on earth were they calling a run play when they could just kneel it?
    And if Ben was that mad, why didn’t he just change the play and kneel it anyway?
    And if he’s fumbling on purpose, why did he bother pretending to try and hand it off to the fullback?
    None of this makes sense.

  11. Alot of haters your team had Big Ben as A QB,yes he can be a drama queen,he made AB and Bell look real good,Let’s see how well they do on other teams

  12. My wife and I try to go to 1-2 Steelers games a year, more if they line up with our schedule (we live in MD so it is a full weekend effort), We usually try to get tickets on the side of the field where the Steelers warm up, near the tunnel on the side of the end zone and try to get there in time to see the team warm up. I can honestly say that I can’t remember a game in the last several years where Ben wasn’t going up to every player on the team, offense, defense, special teams and patting them on the back, giving an encouraging word, shaking hands, etc. As far as I can tell, he is literally the only guy on the team that seems to be trying to check in with everyone.

    Another thing I noticed that he does regularly. During the games,the Steelers usually honor a local veteran or member of the military during a play stoppage in the third quarter. Ben will personally recognize the person, clapping along with the crowd in salute of that person or persons. Again, to my recollection, he is the only one doing this.

    Based on these observations, I find it hard to believe that he is not a team player.

  13. bettis3636 says:

    March 19, 2019 at 10:05 am

    So now take your pick… a creditable back up… or a back up with 6 carries for 17yards …. ….

    What on earth do career stats have anything to do with this story in any way shape or form?? One guy was on the field, in the huddle, and looked Ben in the eyes and actually heard what was being said by Ben. The other was on the sidelines. So now take your pick….

  14. Sounds like Josh Harris has an axe to grind that has more to do with Pittsburgh drama than it does headed to Canton Big Ben.

  15. He’s mama’s boy of the Steelers, so if guy want to play and get paid by the Steelers, then they shut up about Ben. Tomlin is stuck giving Big Ben special treatment and therefore stuck giving others some of the same…and then you’ve got a bunch of babies with no ordr in the room.
    No leadership equals no SB !!

  16. As a Ravens fan, I love all the negative Steelers news I can get but this one of the dumbest articles I’ve seen in a long time. Who cares?

  17. How “reputable” Josh Harris might be is a matter of opinion. He’s not exactly an NFL star or a Steelers great. And it doesn’t speak well for anyone’s character to suddenly come out with a story like this five years after the fact when the team has been struggling with a lot of internal drama. As I’ve said before, I find Harris’s story plausible because not much would surprise me, but Gradkowski’s makes more football sense. In all likelihood, Harris was just hoping for some attention. But the real question is … what possible difference does it make? Haley should have called a kneel-down, but he’s no longer with the team. Ben is with the team and will remain with the team no matter how many former (or current) players dislike him. Pittsburgh won that game, and it was five years ago. Dead, dead horse.

  18. “It seems odd” that a cut/released fullback somehow knows the intent of the quarterback during a split second handoff when the runner is focusing on the ball or the hole. Nice way to present both sides of a story.

  19. The first rule of distorted thinking is mind reading, believing that you know what somebody else is thinking. Harris fits the bill. Sounds like the best option would be counseling.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.