You’re probably not playing particularly well if it takes a question from a reporter during a press conference to break out the ‘that’s my quarterback’ line, but that’s unsurprisingly where we are with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger a quarter of the way through the 2021 season.
He got the line on Wednesday out of Diontae Johnson, the third-year wideout who immediately established himself as Roethlisberger’s favorite target last season and hasn’t looked back, continuing to be targeted at one of the highest rates in the league.
“I feel like he’s been playing great, in my opinion”, Johnson said of Roethlisberger. “Yeah, he’s gonna have a couple bad throws here and there, I mean it’s football, the best of the best are gonna do that regardless. But overall, I see past that because that’s my quarterback. I’m always gonna be behind his back, no matter what. I’m still gonna make plays for him to make him look good”.
The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer had more than a game’s worth of bad throws on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. It can be reasonably stated that he is missed at least three or four touchdown passes already this season, if not more. He had a sure 32-yard score to JuJu Smith-Schuster in his sights on Sunday, but just missed the throw.
Still, his teammates insist that there is more that goes into it than just what you see in stadiums. Asked what he is seeing that gives him confidence in Roethlisberger, Johnson said, “the way I see him practice and come out there and throw us the ball. They’re on the outside looking in, so they don’t know what we’re doing each day and the hard work he puts in day in and day out”, he said of critics.
And critics have been ample, indeed. We have had a number of special segments from a variety of national sports shows dedicated to letting all of their listeners know that they think Roethlisberger is ‘washed’ or some other term to describe that he’s just not good anymore.
At the end of the day, the only opinions on the subject that matter are the ones held inside of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and for the time being, there’s no compelling reason to believe that any significant opinions deviate from what they’re saying publicly.
“We’ve just got to shut out the noise and focus on us and keep going”, Johnson said of all the talk about their quarterback and the team’s struggles through a 1-3 start. “We’re gonna bounce back. It’s football at the end of the day. You’re gonna take losses. It’s how you respond”.