The national media this offseason has by and large done an excellent job of being off the mark in terms of their pulse-taking of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with arguably one exception, at least in my experience, and that has been Cris Carter on FS1’s First Things First. I haven’t agreed with everything he’s said on every Steelers-related issue, but he’s been on the nose with a lot of things.
I think he offered an important perspective yesterday on the conversation of Ben Roethlisberger and his leadership, which was essentially this: leadership doesn’t come without question, and being questioned doesn’t mean you’re not a good leader.
“I believe LeBron James is a great leader. I believe Tom Brady’s a great leader”, he said in a segment yesterday. “But there are complaints about both of them. When they get rid of all these players in New England, why doesn’t Tom ever say anything? When they benched Malcolm Butler and jeopardize his chance to win a sixth Super Bowl, why didn’t Tom Brady say something?”.
He is referring to the 2017 Super Bowl, during which Head Coach Bill Belichick chose to bench one of his starting cornerbacks in a game that they ended up losing in the highest-scoring Super Bowl of all time. Nany of his teammates showed support for him on social media, but it never went beyond that.
“Every great leader has been questioned. LeBron James, Tom Brady: every day of the week”, Carter said. “I believe Ben Roethlisberger is a good leader, but there have been things he has done that you can question. Great leadership doesn’t come without being tested or questioned”.
“Every great leader has been questioned. LeBron James, Tom Brady: every day of the week. I believe Ben Roethlisberger is a good leader, but there have been things he’s done you can question. Great leadership doesn’t come without being questioned.” — @criscarter80 pic.twitter.com/C82LTQQWNM
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) March 28, 2019
I think this is a message a lot of Steelers fans should heed as well, because too often the conversation around the 15-year veteran has been boiled down to one or two issues: specifically, his comments after the loss to the Denver Broncos in which he faulted Antonio Brown for the route he ran on a game-ending interception and was critical of rookie James Washington after dropping a deep pass. The other comment most often pointed to came after the 2018 NFL Draft when he expressed confusion over the fact that the Steelers drafted two quarterbacks in the past two years.
Leadership goes far beyond a handful of public comments, and can’t be summarized by the accounts of one or two former players—and certainly not by a bunch of people in the media. I would include myself in that if I were even distinguished enough to qualify as ‘the media’, but suffice it to say that my take ultimately means nothing as well.
“My experience with NFL players, especially ones that have been inside that locker room, they understand the dynamic, I put a lot of weight in what they say”, Carter said of the situation. “Forget all the people on television. Whatever their opinions are about Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh and what they got going on, forget all of them. Disregard all of them. I’ll disregard Antonio, and L. Bell. Because they were different in their approaches. But I will disregard all the information”.