This offseason has been filled with surprises at every corner – superstar wide receivers getting traded, a shocking un-retirement of a veteran tight end, the retirement of a great tight end and even an NFL owner facing prostitution charges. Despite all these twists and turns, there has been one consistent theme hammered home by mainstream media, that is the bashing of current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The criticism of Roethlisberger’s leadership took off with Antonio Brown’s exit but since then the criticism has only amplified in magnitude, as it seems almost every former teammate and analyst are getting in line to offer their opinion on Roethlisberger’s leadership. With the criticism almost reaching a point of being overbearing and tiresome, I thought I would compile a list of occurrences in which Roethlisberger’s leadership has been praised in order to balance out the conversation.
Here are 16 times that Roethlisberger’s leadership has been praised by teammates and coaches.
- Bruce Arians
“If I could draw the perfect QB, it would be a mixture of all the top guys I’ve coached: the heart and mind of Peyton Manning, the grit and leadership of Big Ben, the athleticism of Andrew Luck and the arm of Carson Palmer” – Bruce Arians
In his book, The Quarterback Whisperer, Arians goes into fine detail on his time spent coaching Roethlisberger. With an entire chapter dedicated to Roethlisberger, Arians speaks on how the Steelers’ quarterback really blossomed as a leader of men right before his very eyes.
- Maurkice Pouncey
Maurkice Pouncey and Roethlisberger share a very close friendship and if there is anyone who is going to come to the quarterback’s defense, you can bet it is going to be his center. From a recent Instagram post, Pouncey had this to say about his long-time quarterback:
“I’ve been with Ben going on 10yr I swear on my kids he is a true LEADER!! sucks to see players who leave and are mad at the organization now try and point fingers like they are perfect! But this is the world we live in now!”
- Jerome Bettis
Earlier this month, Jerome Bettis was approached by TMZ and asked for his opinion on the Brown-Roethlisberger saga. When asked if Roethlisberger is a good leader, Bettis responded with “From what I know, yeah” and then went on to call Roethlisberger a “stand up guy.”
Bettis’ relationship with Roethlisberger goes way back to the 2004 season, when Roethlisberger, then a rookie quarterback, urged Bettis to return for one final season, promising him a Super Bowl ring in the process. One year later and the quarterback made due on his promise, winning Super Bowl XL with Bettis in the running back’s hometown of Detroit.
- Plaxico Burress
Plaxico Burress played two seasons with Roethlisberger, once in 2004 and then one final time in 2012. Despite only playing together for two brief seasons, Burress had only good things to say about his former quarterback’s leadership when he stopped by FS1’s Fair Game.
“I think he’s a great leader. I think people just judge off of what they see, not knowing the individual personally, not being in the locker room and not being around him. I’ve known Ben for 15 years now and he’s a great person, great leader. You don’t have to be a mouth kind of guy to lead. A lot of people lead in different ways by action, by the way they perform and hard work and different things of that nature. He’s a great leader.”
- Santonio Holmes
Another former receiver coming to Roethlisberger’s aid was Super Bowl 43 MVP Santonio Holmes, who caught Ben’s game winning pass to secure the Steelers’ sixth Lombardi trophy. In February of 2016, Holmes caused some controversy when he said that Roethlisberger was ten times better than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Holmes ranked his former quarterback ahead of the two greats not for skill or talent but for attitude and commitment to the game.
“In all respect, he’s 10 times better than (Brady & Manning) because of the attitude and the tenacity that he brings to the game more than any other quarterback. The guy’s been hit by a car. And, basically, dismantled himself and wanted to play six weeks later. Things like that, that just don’t happen for a normal person. But to be able to have that kind of attitude and drive to want to do any and everything for his team, injury after injury, I want him on my team.”
- Charlie Batch
Long-time backup quarterback Charlie Batch has been often regarded as one of the main catalysts in Roethlisberger’s maturity change. Batch goes into great detail in this Bleacher Report article from August 2015 on Roethlisberger’s leadership qualities. There is an interesting story on Roethlisberger covering the bill for former teammate Tony Hills and the quarterback’s dedication to constantly helping rookie players.
“Roethlisberger goes out of his way to be kind to rookies, Batch said. Whenever the Steelers had a rookie QB, he never had to pay the bill for the position-group dinner. Roethlisberger would take his credit card as if he was going to use it, and then pay himself.”
- Isaac Redman
Isaac Redman recently came under some fire after appearing in a Sports Illustrated article where he was asked about Roethlisberger’s leadership. The former Steelers’ running back quickly took to Twitter to clarify any miscommunication and vouch for his former quarterback.
- Willie Colon
Willie Colon is another long-time teammate of Roethlisberger and was asked for his opinion on how the quarterback is maturing following his 2010 sexual assault allegations. In a January 2011 article from ESPN, Colon had this to say:
“(Ben’s) changed his ways. He talks to everybody now. He’s more open; he’s more vocal. He gets it. He’s becoming a great leader.”
- James Washington
The true origin of this story begins not with Brown’s trade demands but with Roethlisberger’s radio show comments on the play of rookie wide receiver James Washington. The quarterback was critical of Washington’s play which drew a firestorm from the media but not from Washington himself, who says the incident helped him turn a corner last season. In a recent interview with Steelers.com, Washington had this to say about his quarterback’s leadership, specifically his reaction after defeating the Patriots last season.
“It was a great feeling coming to the sideline and Ben telling me after the game I’m proud of you and the way you finished. It shows how much I grew from the first time. That meant a lot coming from someone like him. When you have a guy that is like that, I’m willing to do everything I can and work as hard as I need to help him and help this team.”
- Heath Miller
Heath Miller was more than Roethlisberger’s security blanket on the field as the two shared a deep friendship off the field as well with the quarterback even sharing that he shed a tear when Miller announced his retirement. A member of the Steelers since 2005, Miller has seen Roethlisberger progress from a young player in a locker room full of veterans to becoming one of the veteran leaders in the locker room.
“When he and I were younger, there were a lot of good veteran leaders on the team. It’s not easy to come in and vocally start leading a group of 30-year-old men who have been to AFC Championship Games and Pro Bowls. So leadership is something you grow into. He certainly has,” Miller says.
- Markus Wheaton
Heading into the 2015 season, Markus Wheaton was expected to take the next step in his career and help shape a formidable trio of receivers along with Brown and Martavis Bryant. Wheaton who shared a locker next to Roethlisberger, spoke to Bleacher Report of the quarterback’s willingness to help him and many other young members of the team out.
“(Roethlisberger) goes out of his way a lot to help us young guys out. Whoever wants to learn, he’s willing to help them. …He is always open to conversation. He never blows anybody off.”
- James Harrison
Former Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison did his media rounds with Fox today, stopping by Undisputed. There he stood up for his former quarterback’s leadership skills.
Harrison was quoted as saying “The people that are saying he’s a bad teammate, that’s their truth. For me, I think Ben is a good teammate and a good leader.”
- James Conner
James Conner took to Twitter yesterday to praise his quarterback’s leadership, telling the world that Roethlisberger constantly helped him throughout last season. It was also Roethlisberger who stood by Conner’s side last season after his fumble against the Denver Broncos.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
JuJu Smith-Schuster followed Conner and also tweeted out his support of Roethlisberger yesterday evening. Smith-Schuster acknowledged how incredibly blessed he was to be drafted by a team with a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. He then doubled down and confirmed that the quarterback is a true leader.
- Antonio Brown
Yes, that is right, the leader of the anti-Roethlisberger movement, Brown has even gone on the record less than four years ago to speak about his former’s quarterback’s leadership. In the same Bleacher Report article, Brown talks about Roethlisberger constantly challenging him to be better.
“He helped me be a better player by always challenging me. No matter what you achieve, he’s always harping on continuously improving, finding ways to be better. He has made me a better person by talking about life things, family things. He has told me about mistakes he has made and encouraged me not to make the same mistakes. He talks about making sure we are doing the right thing for our families and being the best man we can be.”
- Le’Veon Bell
Le’Veon Bell also decided to take a parting shot at his former quarterback on his way out of Pittsburgh, but just like Brown, his comments seemed contradictory to the comments he voiced in August 2015 to Bleacher Report. Bell at the time was facing his own legal problems and said that Roethlisberger offered helpful advice, even speaking from his own experience.
“He has told me I can’t ever be in that situation again. He has had situations where he has gotten in trouble. He got some grief for it. I’m getting that same type of thing now. He told me just to ignore it all and let my play speak for itself. He said eventually people will forget it as long as you become a better person and player. They will remember the good things. He’s always telling me right from wrong. He has said if I ever need help or have a problem, I should let him know.”