When it comes to assigning blame for struggles, one of the go-to sources tends to be the vein of intangibles that can’t be quantified, yet also can’t be explicitly rebuked as inaccurate, either. The layman, for example, more often than not has absolutely no way of telling whether or not a team was actually ill-prepared for a game, or if they just played poorly.
Not every bad game has to be explained away citing ethereal concepts like lack of heart and drive. But right now, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is being levelled with just these sorts of unverifiable assertions to explain his sub-par play.
The 35-year-old quarterback, of course, spent a significant portion of the offseason making a very public row about the fact that he is at a point in his career in which he is taking it a year at a time, not committing to playing beyond one season. He spoke openly about considering retiring.
But he also spoke openly about the fact that his decision to come back for another season was made because he knew and understand that he was ready, willing, and able to give everything that he has to the game, and to the team, to this season.
That means preparing for games, watching film, taking care of his body, working with his wide receivers, his tight ends, his running back, his offensive line. That means being as engaged in the team as he ever has been. It means that, on the field, this season is as routine as it has ever been before.
If it were not for the fact that he has gotten off to a generally bad start through the first five games, nobody would accuse him of having already mentally retired, as many have. There are even those who like to dig up old quotes from the rightfully well-respected Chuck Noll, who said that if you’re thinking about retiring, then you’re already retired.
Honestly, that’s bullshit.
There is no universal standard on which to judge such things. Most players likely start thinking about retirement by the time that they hit their 30s. That doesn’t mean that they are not as physically and mentally engaged in winning football games. Just ask John Elway.
I think it’s unfair to bombard Roethlisberger with unmeasurable and unprovable claims in this vein because there has been no indication at all, outside of the basic fact that he just threw a bunch of interceptions, that he is not committed entirely to winning this year.
So let’s lay off the lazy excuses for now unless we actually hear something meaningful to address it, and not a facetious answer in the heat of the moment after an ugly game in response to an obnoxious question from a reporter.
Let’s instead look at what he’s doing poorly, and how he is doing it poorly, and then search for the football reasons for why that is. We already know that his interceptions and near-interceptions have been on the rise. Has he been mentally retired for years now, as he has taken his team deeper and deeper into the postseason while playing through injuries?