The Pittsburgh Steelers, despite their second quarter meltdown, had one of their stronger games of the season. When the defense buckled down in the second half shutting down Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the other weapons on the Lions defense, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense had a chance to right their own ship after a hot start went startlingly cold before halftime. Big Ben finished the late afternoon 29 of 45 (64%), 367 yards, 4 TD’s, and only one sack. Oh and he mastered not one but two drives in the 4th quarter to take the lead and then to seal the game. It was a very strong performance from #7, even though there were some accuracy issues at times.
It was a game and a performance to feel good about, and Roethlisberger was in good spirits following the game in the locker room. Gregg Rosenthal from NFL.com’s Around The League quoted Ben by way of Ron Cook from the PPG. “Maybe I made myself more tradeable,” quipped Big Ben to reporters. Funny. I laughed. Why not joke about it after having the burden of defending yourself to baseless reports that you want your team to deal you away or reports that your team is considering trading you at the close of the current season? Good on Ben for navigating through all of that and having a great performance that left his team walking away with the victory, two wins in a row, and something to feel good about going into next week against Cleveland – not giving up when the other shoe was about to drop. That’s the kind of leader you want in the locker room. That’s the kind of player you want to keep on your team. Not trade.
Should be the end of the story, right? But, it’s not. Instead of just dropping the issue due to the lack of named sources and the dismissal of the initial rumors (I’ll never acknowledge Ian Rapoport’s initial story as a ‘report’) by the team and Rooney II himself, NFL.com/NFL Network (same entity here, really) continue to turn the trade rumor screw with Rosenthal’s comments in his own piece from Monday. After quoting Roethlisberger a second time about how there is no need to defend himself to his teammates because they know he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, here is what Rosenthal followed with:
Roethlisberger has made a lot of vague statements about wanting to remain with the Steelers. The Steelers have never said they won’t trade him. Big Ben has never stated he’s happy with his contract. We’d argue he’s one of the most underpaid top quarterbacks in the league, and he’d agree.
Vague statements about wanting to stay? What part of “I’ve always said that I want to be a Steeler for life. I love it here. I’m happy here,” does Rosenthal not understand? What is so vague about that? And the whole contract thing – what upstanding player actually openly talks about their contract? Unless directly asked about if he is happy with his contract, why would Ben even talk about something like that? Is any athlete truly happy with their contract? No. They would have loved to have more money, but are getting the best they could from the team and the athlete’s agent. The one thing I would agree with Rosenthal is that Ben is indeed one of the most underpaid top QB’s in the league…. today…. because four other quarterbacks in the last two seasons signed huge deals. But, putting his contract into context (I know, shocker), Ben was one of the highest paid QB’s when his contract was initially signed. No one could have predicted Joe Flacco winning the Super Bowl and getting a huge deal from that back in 2008 when Ben signed his extension. No one could have predicted that the Packers would one-up that Flacco’s contract by signing Aaron Rodgers to even more money than Flacco’s deal. No one could have predicted that the Dallas Cowboys would have signed a mediocre QB who has yet to prove he can overcome himself and win big games to a huge contract. Ok, maybe we all thought that Jerry Jones would be that dumb. But, still – to spin the fact that Roethlisberger is making less than some top QB’s as something to the tone of the Steelers are purposefully dictating is just irresponsible.
Finally, this whole “The Steelers have never said they won’t trade” Ben is equally as ridiculous to use as an argument to justify that the team is actively searching a trade. Just because statements are not denied does not make them true. The NFL Network lately and guys like Rapoport act like what they ‘report’ demands validation from those involved – be it players, coaches, owners – with a definitive ‘true’ or ‘false’ response. And, if those involved don’t directly address the ‘report’ with a hard ‘yes’ or ‘no’ then they continue to run with it. Well you didn’t say no, so it must be true. Well later I’m going to Tweet that Rapoport likes to kill kittens and if he doesn’t deny it, then it must be true. What a monster.
I don’t know what the narrative is down at the NFL Network/NFL.com these days, but apparently it’s becoming about a New York Post style of journalism – write what sells. It’s borderline CNN and ESPN quality – 24 hour news and coverage is bound to feel the need to drum up stories so people don’t tune out. I’m getting tired of all these ‘inside sources’ reports that somehow deal with such sensitive issues. You don’t think that if Rooney wanted to trade Ben that he would keep that under lock and key so tight that some guy in marketing walking by the office wouldn’t overhear Rooney ‘picking up the phone’ or that it wouldn’t be some whispered water cooler talk in the team office? Come on.
The issue needs to be put to bed already. Quit drumming up rumors and quit blatantly spinning statements. Ben has stated on numerous occasions that he wants to end his football career in Pittsburgh. The Rooney’s have been loyal to Ben to this point, even through all the bad PR Big Ben has put them through. The Steelers need him if they want to have any chance of salvaging this season and getting to the playoffs again within the next five years. Yes, the team is in a bit of a rebuild mode after this season. Perhaps they will finally decide to build the team around him instead of dealing him away. I’ll have to check my sources on that.