When NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport led with a story before the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Bills last Sunday, Steeler Nation filled with a cacophony of reaction about the potential of the Steelers trading Ben Roethlisberger at season’s end. What should have been dispelled and disappeared as the week passed on, it seems like Rapoport has opened a Pandora’s Box, and the rumor mill about Big Ben and his future with the Steelers has only begun to churn. But, could there be truth to Rapoport’s report? Could Ben be traded by the end of the season? Were Ben traded at season’s end – is he the cause of his own demise?
To really try and wrap our heads around the thought of the face of this franchise being dealt for a few picks in the draft (and maybe some cash), I think the past should be explored. Despite Roethlisberger’s resume over ten seasons, his off the field behavior has been a liability to the team from time to time. The motorcycle crash, the first sexual assault allegation, the second sexual assault/rape allegation that led to a suspension from the league. In addition to these things making soiling the shield of the Steelers and tarnishing the notion that the Rooney’s have always run a team that is full of men with class, they also compromised the team and how it performed each of those three seasons of those occurrences.
Motorcycle Accident: 2006 Steelers record – 8-8 and missed playoffs. Ben throws highest INT total in career (23).
Lake Tahoe Assault: 2009 Steelers record – 9-7 and missed playoffs. Ben sacked 50 times that season.
Milledgeville, Georgia Assault: 2010 Steelers record – 12-4 and loss to Packers in Super Bowl.
During the biggest scandal (the Georgia rape allegation) the team did fair well. They won the division thanks to the reliable play from Charlie Batch during Ben’s suspension over the first three games of the season. So, there is an anomaly in that instance. However, it does not take away the distraction that incident placed on the team during the off-season and going through the rest of the season. The Rooney’s had to play some major damage control, and this being the second accusation in as many years, the Steelers branding of being a team full of class was completely compromised (if not shattered) after the Rooney’s decided to keep Ben on the team instead of releasing him. The Boss looked bad, and it was Roethlisberger’s behavior that put The Brass in that position. 2004-2010 were quite frankly the ‘Golden Age’ for the Steelers based on the players they had on the squad. There was a dynasty there waiting to emerge – bigger than what the Cowboys came up with in the 90’s. Would Rooney ever feel that his quarterback, the inherent leader of this team, compromised all of that?
By this time though, Ben had solidified himself as the face of the franchise. And, one could even argue (heavily) that he had a rather large ladle in stirring the pot regarding decisions of personnel. Don’t believe that? Ben has had a hand in the draft (Limas Sweed), keeping players (Max Starks) and coaching (Bruce Arians & Mike Tomlin). Ben wanted his QB coach to become the OC and got his way. A defensive minded coach in Mike Tomlin came on board, and Ben and his buddy BA were free to create an offense that was suited for Big Ben. Why wasn’t the Wiz hired over Tomlin? Rooney rule? Bologna. The Steelers had interviewed the Bears Ron Rivera already. To say that Tomlin was brought in as a puppet would be a stretch – but seeing how inept he is at coaching a team and making in game decisions, it doesn’t seem so far of a stretch that Tomlin wasn’t the ‘best’ candidate and brought in for other reasons.
It’s difficult to exactly put a finger on what happened between the Super Bowl win against the Cardinals and what eventually led to the forced ‘retirement’ of Bruce Arians. But, from what I can tell based on the decisions made from that point on, Rooney had had enough and decided to take back control of this team – his team. How? By dumping Arians and hiring Todd Haley as the new offensive coordinator. Haley has developed an offensive scheme that is the antithesis of Roethlisberger’s style of play. Big Ben does not fair well in this style as he is continually told to stay in the pocket and dump off quick passes. Ultimately, the goal is to get short yardage and keep Roethlisberger ‘safe’ from sacks with the quick dump offs. A struggling running game for the last two seasons has been a huge wrench thrown into this new cog, and asking a guy who has won two Super Bowls, numerous playoff games, and 30 game winning drives by running around outside of the pocket is like asking birds not to fly south for the winter. It’s all instincts at this point. Further evidence of Haley’s offense not working with Ben is when the Steelers go into no-huddle situations. The offense is more efficient and drives the field with more consistency. Ben is in control and calls the plays.
Haley and Ben have failed to get along and get on the same page. I don’t care what kind of PR is thrown at the media. Haley and Roethlisberger are like oil and water at this point. Despite recent draft selections, it does not appear as if the Steelers are making honest efforts in protecting Big Ben and developing an offense that tailors to his strengths. Keep trying to pigeon hole a player like Ben, and he’s bound to struggle in performance. That’s clear from this season. Rumors are now coming out of the South Side putting Ben’s preparation from week to week into question putting his commitment to the Steelers into question and resurfacing the original rumor that Ben wants traded.
It’s all lip service from here on out from this organization. Rooney said this. Ben said that. It’s all spin. I believe that Ben doesn’t want traded. I believe that he still works hard despite the latest rumors. Despite the offensive woes since Haley’s arrival, Roethlisberger probably believes that his position is invincible and that Haley would go before he would. But, looking back at the last six years it appears as if it is quite possible that Rooney has had enough from his quarterback and is laying the groundwork to deal him out. The behavior that tarnished the shield, the influence on personnel, the dynasty that never was, the inability to change style of play – has Art Rooney II had enough of Ben Roethlisberger and ready to deal him out of town? It’s all speculation and conjecture at this point, and even what has been laid out in this article is a big leap of faith.
I will say this, if Todd Haley isn’t fired at the end of the season, and Big Ben is traded prior to the draft, then you can be certain that Art Rooney II made his decision back in 2012 that enough was enough.
Tags: Pittsburgh Steelers