Locker Room Troubles in Pittsburgh, Not So Much in New York

by John Cihon
Roethlisberger and Ward (AP)

Don’t worry Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the choke by the New England Patriots against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII last night ensures that the Steelers still are the greatest Super Bowl dynasty team of all, and there’s no need to start a debate.

On the other hand, Big Ben Roethlisberger’s comments about wanting a tall wide receiver started a debate with Hines Ward that played its way across the national media. However, Ward’s anguish about Big Ben’s desire for a taller receiver is absolutely misguided. If Pittsburgh gets a tall wide receiver, Ward won’t be the one to lose a job. Furthermore, this year Tom Brady three a lot of passes to Wes Welker, because Randy Moss was drawing double coverage down the field, leaving Welker open. The same thing will happen to Ward if Ben gets a receiver who is a deep threat, and Ward will probably actually get more catches total. But Ward seems like an insecure, me-first player, who can’t see the big picture. With the year Ben had on the field, the Steelers could have been Super Bowl contenders if Ben had more options to throw to. Hines Ward is a solid possession receiver at this point in his career, but that is it. Any team where he is the number one receiver will not be contending for a Super Bowl. Ben knows he needs more weapons, and Hines Ward needs to accept it if he ever wants another ring.

The tension between Ben Roethlisberger and his teammates this year does seem to go deeper than a couple stray comments in the media. You’ve got to ask; with the career year he had, statistically the best year any Steelers quarterback has ever had, why didn’t Roethlisberger’s teammates vote him MVP? Why didn’t they vote him team captain at the beginning of the year? Roethlisberger gives all credit to his teammates and takes all the blame in press conferences. He’s said everything right all year long. On the sidelines during the games, he couldn’t be a better cheerleader, and he seems to be getting along great with his teammates, laughing and joking. Are they still angry about his poor play following the motorcycle accident and appendectomy last year? Do they resent the big paycheck he’ll be getting soon when he signs his new contract and the Rooney’s drive a truck full of money to his house? Is Big Ben a jerk in private? I don’t think he is, but it does seem like his teammates don’t like him. I’ve heard rumors about a schism between him and the team, but I haven’t been able to get any concrete details, and I don’t think anyone involved is too eager to talk on that particular subject.

Contrast the situation in the Pittsburgh locker room with the situation in the New York Giants’ locker room. Tiki Barber has long been critical of Eli Manning, and Barber retired last year. Jeremy Shockey and Michael Strahan, both extremely talented but loud and demanding players who are probably concerned more with their own personal glory than the good of the team, took themselves out of the giant’s lineup due to injury for much of the season. And the Giants got better by subtraction. With the loudmouths gone, Eli Manning was able to play without distractions coming from inside his own locker room, and the results were undeniable. Manning finally and convincingly beat his probably undeserved rep as an underperformer.

Makes you wonder if there’s a lesson for the Steelers there.

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Tags: Big Ben Roethlisberger Cihon Eli Manning Hines Ward Jeremy Shockey John Cihon Michael Strahan New England Patriots New York Giants Pittsburgh Steelers Randy Moss Super Bowl XLII Tiki Barber Tom Brady Wes Welker

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