Sunday was a disaster on several levels for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most obviously, they lost to the hated Baltimore Ravens. That loss dropped them from current holders of a Wild Card berth all the way down to fourth in line. But perhaps most damaging was what happened before the game, when Hines Ward called his quarterback a sissy in front of a national television audience.
Nothing can be done about the Steelers playoff hopes until they get back on the field. What can be fixed is the apparent rift between Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward. To that end, Hines has taken every opportunity to back off his statements, beginning on Monday morning when he called in to ESPN to explain he made his comments without knowing the full story behind Ben’s benching. Head coach Mike Tomlin, in his weekly press conference, admitted he handled the entire situation poorly. Gee, ya think?
Hines wasn’t done. He posted a message on his Facebook page that basically said his statements were made in a frustrated and emotional state. He also tried to clarify his “50-50″ comment in regards to playing with concussions although what he says he was trying to say doesn’t sound remotely like what he actually said. And I always thought Hines was a fairly articulate speaker, perhaps a future Senator or Governor. He also made it a point to mention he would never question the toughness of any Steeler. I found it interesting he didn’t specifically mention Ben, nor did he issue a public apology to his QB. It was also curious he described the talk they had as “productive.” That sounds a bit like your mom saying the girl she wants to set you up with has “a nice personality.”
Still, by all accounts, the peace conference between Hines and Ben seems to have smoothed things over. For now. You may remember a couple years back, Ben slapped his current teammates in the face by saying he wanted “a big receiver” in the draft. Hines retorted, “I didn’t heard any complaints about the receivers when we won the Super Bowl.” which fueled controversy for a few days before Hines and Ben kissed and made up after a long phone conversation. Both these men are total professionals and the Steelers locker room is far from the chaotic mess you see in places like Dallas or Cleveland but just the same, I have a feeling those two won’t be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon.
On a side note, I was a bit surprised to learn Hines had a Facebook page. I thought that site was for lonely Emo girls and frat boys who needed a place to post totally rad pictures from last weekends ragin’ kegger, brah. I wonder how many other Steelers have Faceyspaces and Twittypages…
Anyway, showing what a true leader he is, Hines also apologized to his teammates for causing controversy. He was also the first player to vocalize what I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now, specifically being that this team’s margin for error is officially zero. If the Steelers hope to make the playoffs, they must win out. They might be okay if they lose to Green Bay, although in that scenario they’d still need a lot of help. But a loss to any AFC team, particularly Baltimore or Miami (both in the thick of the Wild Card hunt), would likely doom their hopes for a post-season.
Let’s hope this week’s internal strife is truly in the past. Because from here on out, the Steelers must concentrate 110% on the task before them. Anything less and it won’t just cost them some bad publicity. It’ll cost them the right to defend their hard-earned championship. And I think we all agree we don’t want to see that.
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