The Pittsburgh Steelers are battered and bruised and searching for answers, reeling from a 33-3 demolishment by the New England Patriots from the season opener. But at least as it concerns an on-field exhibition, there’s always next week. The constant hits the organization took to its reputation, and particular for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, during the offseason were given no platform for a rebound.
It all stemmed from the fallout of former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s growing discontent, which saw him slap on a comedy mustache and embark on a salt-the-earth campaign to rid himself of his former organization, perhaps with the intention of ultimately finding his way to the Patriots.
Brown wielded blistering criticism after criticism toward Roethlisberger in the public sphere, via social media and during interviews as well, as he looked to part ways with the organization that drafted him in the sixth round in 2010. Among harsher criticisms, he ultimately accused Roethlisberger of being a bad teammate.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, who posted a lengthy article earlier today detailing the quarterback’s journey recently to improve himself as a locker room leader, there had been a growing tug-of-war within between him and Brown, with players feeling as though they were being asked to choose sides. This is perhaps the germ of the wide receiver’s comment that Roethlisberger has “an owner’s mentality”.
This offseason, he has worked to better himself in the eyes of his teammates. We have heard about the lakehouse trip on a number of occasions, gathering most of the skill position players on the team for a bonding experience.
But he also had an important dinner with two defensive leaders, Cameron Heyward and Vince Williams, the longest-tenured Steelers on that side of the ball, to ask them how he could be more approachable to the younger players on the roster.
Williams told Fowler of the meeting and what he said to Roethlisberger, ultimately revealing that “it’s on him to find ways to be more relatable”. He added that it’s difficult because “the legend of Ben is bigger than who he really is, so it’s hard to be approachable to him. I told him, ‘you’ve got to initiate that’”.
And the ESPN reporter writes that, through interviews with a number of players, he’s found that the quarterback has been just that this offseason. Williams himself told Fowler that he has seen more effort on the quarterback’s part to be open and available to his teammates, even if not everybody avails themselves of that access.
Roethlisberger told Fowler that he tries to bridge the age gap with teammates much younger than himself by asking them about their interests. We all well know by now how JuJu Smith-Schuster tried to explain Fortnite to him. “They like that the old man asks a lot of questions”, the quarterback joked.
The ultimate goal in Roethlisberger becoming a better leader is to see that have some positive effect on the field and result in a better performance. We did not see that on Sunday, but how the group responds to the ugly loss in Foxboro will be a test of his leadership abilities.