The recent puff piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger attempted to inject a little balance by asking Roethlisberger to list his career regrets.
The most obvious area for potential reflection and remorse was not mentioned, either by Roethlisberger or by Ron Cook, who wrote the article. (Hey, if no one ever mentions it, it never happened, right?)
Instead, Roethlisberger lamented the team’s loss in Super Bowl XLV, playing the what-if game with center Maurkice Pouncey’s ankle injury and running back Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble. (Don’t tell Mendenhall it was a fumble.) Roethlisberger also lamented the fact that the Steelers won only three postseason games after the Super Bowl that capped the 2010 season.
“I feel like the game has changed,” Roethlisberger said on that point. “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.”
Well, that’s interesting. Hoeppner coached Roethlisberger for four years. Cowher coached Roethlisberger for three.
Mike Tomlin coached Roethlisberger for 15 NFL seasons.
It’s fair to wonder whether Roethlisberger is saying that Tomlin coddles players. We sort of already know that he does, at least with great ones like Antonio Brown.
The other way to put it is that Tomlin knows how to handle potentially problematic players, in order to speak to their better angels. What may look like coddling is more like defusing (or at least delaying) a ticking time bomb.
Indeed, we’ve heard for years that players who weren’t known to be problems in Pittsburgh at times go elsewhere and create internal havoc. Other coaches in the NFL deeply respect Tomlin’s ability to steer players who may be inclined to cause trouble away from doing so. With Brown, Tomlin somehow managed to do it for nearly a decade.
Some will also see Roethlisberger’s comments are ironic, given that he was at times an unpopular, me-first presence during the early years of his career. He became known for (or at least suspected of) embellishing and/or fabricating injuries, starting with the aftermath of the 2004 AFC Championship. He claimed that he played with multiple broken toes. Cowher publicly declared that his rookie quarterback had zero fractures of the metatarsal bones.
There were more issues for Young Ben, including the motorcycle accident that (according to him) left him “seconds, maybe a minute away from dying,” along with a reputation in the locker room for at times being a little surly and standoffish.
There’s an entire chapter in Playmakers devoted to the redemption Roethlisberger experienced following his four-game suspension in 2010. (As one former unnamed teammate opined regarding Ben, “He a turd.”) As noted in Playmakers, it’s uncanny that the indiscretions of his youth have become entirely lost to history. Apparently, the full universe of people who have acquired amnesia regarding the early days of Roethlisberger’s career now include Roethlisberger himself.