The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered an embarrassing road loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday and several believe the team statement during the singing of the national anthem may have played a role in it.
During his post-game press conference following the loss, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked to explain what led to his team deciding to stay off the field during the pre-game singing of the national anthem.
“You know, by no means, no way shape or form, was there any disrespect intended towards our troops or people that serve this country,” Roethlisberger started. “We all have the up-most respect for them, obviously. They give us the freedom to play this game. Last night, obviously with all the issues going on, if you will, we had a players’ only meeting after the team meeting last night.
“We decided we were going to talk about what we were going to do because we knew some guys wanted to take a knee, guys wanted to stand. We said whatever we do, we need to make sure we are unified as one group because that’s what we’re about and that’s what it should be about is staying together as one unit, and one group, and one brotherhood, things like that. And so rather than having some guys kneel and some guys stand, the conclusion was made kind of by everybody that the best thing to do was to stay in locker room, or in the tunnel if you will, and show respect that way.”
While the team stood in the tunnel during the national anthem, tackle Alejandro Villanueva,, a former Army captain, stood outside of it with his hand over his heart and was very visible to the television cameras. Because of that, Roethlisberger was asked after the game if there was any problem with Villanueva doing what he did away from the rest of his teammates.
“No,” Roethlisberger replied.
While Roethlisberger apparently didn’t have an issue with Villanueva’s Sunday actions, it appears as though another well-respected veteran of the team, outside linebacker James Harrison, somewhat does.
“We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously. But, I guess we weren’t,” Harrison said after the game, according to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com.
Roethlisberger was next asked if all the stuff that went on with the team Saturday night took away from Sunday’s game and what the team was trying to accomplish.
“Well, I’d probably be lying if I said no a little bit,” said Roethlisberger. “Obviously, there’s a lot going on in the state of the world, if you will, and in the state of sports and in NFL, but we can’t make excuses.
In the end, Roethlisberger took the blame for Sunday’s loss to the Bears.
“I need to play better football,” the quarterback said. “I’ll take this game on me. I didn’t play well enough. I missed too many throws, didn’t make good reads, whatever it was. Turned the ball over on a sack fumble. I can’t do that so this one’s on me. The good news is, if you will, its an NFC road game and it’s early in the season and I take the approach is all this means is that were not going to be undefeated.”
Roethlisberger was then asked if the Bears defense did anything in particular that wasnt expected.
“Nope, they lined up and kind of did some things, pretty much everything we expected them to do,” Roethlisberger said. “Obviously, you throw wrinkles here and there but we just need to execute. That’s them making plays, stopping us and I think I was just off today. For whatever reason, I didn’t make all the throws that I normally would and make the plays I normally should and that’s why I think we lost this game.”