Ben Roethlisberger sent a message to his teammates and his delivery method concerns me. According to Alan Robinson’s Wednesday evening article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Roethlisberger challenged his teammates.
We need to come out and play ball. I don‘t want to use the word desperation — I don‘t feel desperate — I just feel like we need to put it together and play ball the way we know how to play ball.”
I can’t say I remember many Steelers players talking through the media to each other. I’m a fan of these things staying behind the locker-room doors. However, on the other side of things, one has to wonder what kind of toll this uneven season has taken on the players. Is this because of some player’s legal troubles? Is the locker room affected by the poor attitude of some players? Has the departure of Bruce Arians and Todd Haley’s new systems caused problems? Well, maybe. But, seriously, I don’t care! “Suck-it-up-buttercup!” Football players are professionals who get paid a lot of money and they should deliver. Yinzer’s are hard-working, down-to-earth people who expect effort to be commensurate with the pay earned. Injuries are understandable but repeated mistakes are not. I am thinking that Robinson’s term of “challenge” for Roethlisberger’s statement may be inaccurate. I think Roethlisberger is talking to the fans. He’s publically showing that he understands—and shares—the fans’ frustration.
The previous leadership voices of Farrior and Ward are gone, as Robinson also noted. Earlier this season, I mused that Farrior’s departure would be felt in an intangible way and there would be a gap until other veterans became more comfortable in leading. Just because you play football, it doesn’t mean you are someone who can motivate and inspire.
I am of the opinion that coaches’ voices grow stale. I also think that coaches begin to make assumptions after they have a system in place. Tomlin may be assuming that players are practicing and playing to a certain standard, but in some games there is a lack of discipline. That said, you have to give the opposing team some credit. But the Steelers have lost games this year where you went away shaking your head instead of saying that it was a close game. The fans find it easy to pick out things to criticize because it’s not the way they are used to seeing the Steelers play. Roethlisberger’s statements, in my opinion, show he understands that. I can remember many games where you could point to only one or two times where Steelers players made mistakes. Most times fans felt every Steeler on the field this year gave 110% – win or lose. This year, well, there have been times to question it. For example, the repeated fumbles and dropsies have everyone scratching their heads – I am nearly ready to lobby the NFL to bring back the outlawed “Stick-em.” I’m not calling for Tomlin or LeBeau’s resignation, but there is something going on I just can’t put my finger on.
So, I’m to the point that I don’t care how Roethlisberger delivered the message. I want the players to bond together and fight for these last three wins. Playoffs (cue Jim Mora…) or not, I want to see the players finish the season in “the Steeler way.” Personally, I don’t care if there are problems in the locker room. You’re all adults, figure it out. Play tough and give the Steelers their money’s worth – you’re getting paid—earn it.