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2020 Offseason Questions: How Should Players Balance Honesty And Diplomacy In Answering Media?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How should players balance honesty against diplomacy when directly answering questions from the media?

While a lot of people have grown fond of Marshawn Lynch for his approach to dealing with NFL media directly (he has been significantly more open through other avenues), fans would be outraged if all of their favorite players gave nothing but “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” answers to questions.

This daily question was inspired by the article I wrote yesterday about Emmanuel Sanders, who said that he feels his bridge with Ben Roethlisberger is probably burnt, and that that might make any potential reunion with the Steelers a no-go. Sanders is preparing for the Super Bowl with the 49ers, but was asked to address his pending free agency status.

Sometimes it certainly seems as though players can’t do anything right. When they’re diplomatic, fans demand honesty. When they’re honest, they demand diplomacy. Perhaps it simply depends upon whether or not the answer they get is the answer they wanted from the player.

So, really, what are players supposed to do when they have a microphone shoved in their faces? What sort of obligations do they have to shield their real thoughts on an issue, depending upon what it is? What limits are placed on their personality and open expression because of their celebrity status, and their being part of something that is bigger than themselves? Basically, when can they say what they really think?

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