There’s this idea, probably running in more national media circles but some of it local too, that Ben Roethlisberger never takes the blame. Every interview, every comment, is passing the buck onto someone else, calling them out, like the Wicked Witch of the West. And it seems to be Antonio Brown’s biggest issue with Roethlisberger, as noted in his Twitter Q&A this weekend.
No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect! He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game. #truth https://t.co/MsSyBVd3Ny
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 16, 2019
Shannon Sharpe piled on, criticizing Ben for not being more like the uh, mild mannered Tom Brady, claiming #7 didn’t take responsibility when he made mistakes.
"Ben doesn't never say, 'I played bad.' He's always willing to put the blame at someone else's feet. Tom Brady has never done that. … All @AB84 did was give you a glimpse into what's really causing the conflict and its' no accountability." — @ShannonSharpe pic.twitter.com/8AT6TzNiHF
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) February 18, 2019
So does Roethlisberger ever call himself out? Is he accountable? Yes he is. Spend even a little bit of time researching, this took me about a half hour, and I found 14 examples of Big Ben pointing the finger at his #7 jersey. All of these occurred since their Super Bowl loss against Green Bay in February of 2011. A majority of them happened over the last few seasons.
Those examples below.
Following the Steelers’ 31-25 Super Bowl loss to Green Bay, Roethlisberger said he felt like he let the team down. Specifically, he noted the contributions of several unsung heroes who played a critical role in getting the team to the big game or “next man up” types who carried the baton.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose,” he said right after the game. “And for me it’s even more disappointing because you felt like you let a lot of people down that stood up today to fight. People like Doug Legursky, Trai Essex, Ramon Foster, Antwaan Randle El. Me personally, I feel like I let a lot of people down…I turned the ball over and you can’t do that…there’s a lot of throws I’d like to have back. Like I said, I don’t put a blame on anyone except myself. I feel like I let the city of Pittsburgh down. The fans, my coaches, my teammates, and it’s not a good feeling.”
After the season opening loss to Denver. Roethlisberger threw a pick six to Tracy Porter, ending the game.
“I’ve already told my two main coaches it’s my fault, and it’s on me,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “I should have called timeout. The play clock was running down, and I hate to burn timeouts, but I should have, because we were kind of all over the place.
“That loss is squarely on my shoulders. But I’ll take that, we’ll get better, and we’ll learn from it.”
He went on to praise the job Doug Legursky and Mike Adams did, reiterating the fact the loss was on him, not anyone else.
A heart-breaking loss to Dallas where Roethlisberger threw another critical interception. He was asked if he felt like he was responsible for the defeat.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said. “One-hundred percent. This is on me. I let the team, the fans, everybody down.”
The Steelers were dominated by Cleveland, a 31-10 blowout, Roethlisberger losing to the Browns for only the second time in his career. His comments on his radio show during the following week.
“It was frustrating. I felt like I could and should have played better and do more to give our team a chance to win,” Roethlisberger said. “I take it upon myself and it was a long bus ride home. You got to let it fester inside you a little bit because I think that’s what motivates you, but you also have to find a way to move on and that is why today we have moved on and were getting ready for this week.”
“It’s our responsibility to play the best we can and right now. I will take the blame that I’m not playing my best football and I need to. So if I play better football, then maybe people will get off the coaches’ back.”
Pittsburgh’s bounced in the Wild Card game to Baltimore, one where the Steelers had limited weapons offensively, starting Ben Tate (memba him?) at running back after Le’Veon Bell was injured in Week 17 to Cincinnati.
I don’t have Roethlisberger’s exact quote but here’s our Matthew Marczi recapping what Big Ben said post-game.
“When asked about the unfortunate Terrell Suggs interception midway through the fourth quarter in a one-possession game that was the turning point in the contest, Roethlisberger placed the blame on himself for not delivering a better ball, and for not understanding that Ben Tate wasn’t used to playing with him and knowing how he would throw the ball in that situation.”
Roethlisberger threw three picks in a loss to Cincinnati, the same game where Bell was again hurt and lost for the season. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I’m obviously disappointed in the way that I played,” said Roethlisberger, who threw three interceptions in a game for the first time since the 2013 season. “I let this team down and I let the fans down. This one is on me and I’m taking the blame and letting everyone know that I have to play better.”
Playing through injury in a loss to Baltimore, Roethlisberger had this to say.
“We did not make plays. I did not make plays. I did not convert third downs. I turned the ball over. It’s frustrating. I hold myself to a higher standard. I’ve played through injuries before, and we just couldn’t get going on offense.”
An exception to this list. Pittsburgh won this game, AB’s Immaculate Extension over the goal line to beat Baltimore. But Roethlisberger knew he was responsible for relying on heroics to get the W, crediting those around him for picking up the slack.
“I kind of dug ourselves a hole,” Roethlisberger said. “I take all that blame. We never quit and never gave up. Guys fought back.”
A middling, 2-1 start to the year with the offense struggling to get going. Highlighted by a Week 3 loss to Chicago, an upset that left a sour team in the mouth of coaches, players, and fans. Couple of quotes from Jeremy Fowler’s article.
“The quarterback needs to play better,” he said.
“I didn’t play well enough to win. We lost the game because of me, because I didn’t play well enough,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not on anyone else. That’s how I felt, that’s what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to own it. And I’ll own it.
“If I play better in that game, I feel we win the game. If I play better in the first two weeks, then we’re going to score more points and have a productive offense and we don’t have to answer questions about why our offense isn’t where it is.”
Some more from Ben that week as Dave Bryan transcribed, discussing focusing too much on getting the ball to Brown and his overall lackluster play.
“I think it’s taking what the defense gives me,” Roethlisberger said. “Sometimes I find myself almost zoning on A.B. too much because we’ve got such a great relationship and he’s so good. And I need to take what the defense gives us. Sometimes there’s guys that might be open that I kind of quickly go to A.B. I need to reel myself back in and just take what defense gives us. Give us the best play possible, not just the best guy possible.”
“It’s on me, it’s not on the other guys. I need to be better. We can be a better offense when I play better. We win the game last week if I play better. So, it’s not about a No. 2 or 3, or establishing guys, we’re going to rotate guys in because we’ve got enough weapons we need to do that. I just need to be better at getting more guys involved.”
Ben’s infamous comments after his five interception debacle in the loss to Jacksonville.
“Maybe I don’t have it anymore.”
And in that moment, AB – to his credit – stuck up for his struggling quarterback.
“He’s going to come to work this week with a lot of intensity,” Brown said. “He’s going to bring the best out of all of us, especially after a week like this.”
After being eliminated in the Divisional shootout loss against Jacksonville. Roethlisberger’s pair of picks didn’t help.
“[The stat line] doesn’t matter when you give them 14 more. That’s on me,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ll take full blame for those points and that loss. You can’t put your defense in that situation.”
When asked generally speaking, why the deep passing game wasn’t working. Ben said he had to play better. As we wrote at the time.
“The planned deep ball in the game, however, was otherwise a disaster, and that was on Roethlisberger, a fact that he knows as well as anybody. He was asked about the inefficiency of the deep passing game after the contest, and he admitted to reporters, “I missed a couple”, said in a way that reflects a declaration of responsibility.
He followed up that remark by saying that he “talked to [offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner] pre-game. I thought my ball was moving a little bit right, and I have to do a much better job of keeping the ball in play down the right sideline”.
Kicking off the month with a defeat to AFC North rival Baltimore, one where the Steelers’ offense went silent in the second half. From ESPN.
“I’m not playing well enough,” he said. “I need to play better. Today was just a bad day at the office. I promise I’ll be back to play better.”
Roethlisberger commenting on a poorly thrown pass to wide receiver Justin Hunter, injured and lost for the year on the play. Ben put the obvious blame on himself.
“I thought, and I still to this day thought I put it where I wanted to, but it was too far, and I feel bad. I told Justin because he got hurt on that play and I feel bad. If I would have thrown a better ball, he wouldn’t have got hurt…You have to connect on that throw, and it’s on me.”
I’m sure if I spent another hour combing through Internet archives – all I essentially did was search “Ben blame” – I could find 14 more. It’s easy to be prisoner of the moment and look at the headline-grabbing comments. But we miss everything else, like the QB taking the blame in a loss where people expect it and sorta move on. Because that doesn’t make a very interesting story for First Take.
It doesn’t absolve Roethilsberger of everything. Let’s be clear, he’s had a role to play in the Steelers’ issues and if you want to say there’s things he can do to become a better leader, that’s fair. I agree with those who think it’s a good idea to scrap his radio show. It’s become too much of a hotbed for controversy and he probably has a different, more casual (meaning honest) mindset during that interview – half the time he’s in his car for it – than he does in the locker room with 31 microphones in his face.
His blame of Brown in the Denver game was wrong and dumb but it’s important to note I think that’s the only time Roethlisberger has ever been that critical of AB in public. One time isn’t some alarming, terrible trend that makes him a bad leader, as Sharpe seems to believe in the above clip.
So it’s all, as these things tend to go, generally wrong. Roethlisberger will be remembered more for what he did as a player than a leader. That’s accurate, that’s fair. As is the notion he won’t have “World’s Best Teammate” ribbons pinned to his wall.
But lacking accountability? Never taking the blame? Simply not true. And you don’t have to look far to find it.