Ben Roethlisberger certainly made waves locally and nationally with comments shared on his Sunday episode of the Footbahlin podcast, telling Kenny Pickett he initially didn’t want him to succeed so that fans wouldn’t forget about the Roethlisberger era. After a few weeks, Roethlisberger said he began to realize his feelings were selfish and switched to rooting for Pickett to become the next great Steelers quarterback.
With all that comes plenty of reaction. Much of it negative for Roethlisberger’s admittedly self-centered thoughts. But on Monday’s episode of The Pat McAfee Show, Pat McAfee praised Roethlisberger for being so honest and shared the story of having similar feelings following his retirement as the Indianapolis Colts’ punter.
“Everybody just assumes this is a movie,” McAfee said. “That humans aren’t involved. And that humans don’t have feelings and emotions and ego and pride. The fact Ben Roethlisberger who, a Hall of Famer, comes out and says [I didn’t want you to succeed], I appreciate Ben doing this. I like the fact that he was comfortable enough in his skin to fucking say it.”
Football is the ultimate competitive sport and those who know Roethlisberger described his competitiveness in every arena. Not just football but all sports, everything down to playing trash can basketball with wadded up pieces of paper. It’s part of what made Roethlisberger one of the best quarterbacks of his era, the drive and determination to succeed and win.
McAfee retired early when he could’ve remained the Colts’ punter, walking away after a 2016 Pro Bowl campaign, and mentioned his own difficulty in seeing his replacement.
“The Colts signed this guy. His name was Jeff. Probably a good guy. He got a press conference. They gave a press conference to this guy,” he said. “I never got a press conference…I never did any media ever. Which is an interesting thing, but I was never asked to. This dude did a full press conference. Talked about how he never saw my film really because he was in the NFC and I was in the AFC. Didn’t know much about me. My immediate thought was, ‘Fuck this guy.'”
The “Jeff” he’s referring to is Jeff Locke, who signed a two-year, $3.45 million deal after McAfee retired. It’s a move that didn’t work out and Locke lost his job to undrafted rookie Rigoberto Sanchez. McAfee told the story of going to the Colts’ facility to meet Locke but catching up with Sanchez instead, whose humility changed McAfee’s feelings about his replacements and like Roethlisberger, he began to root for them to succeed. For Roethlisberger, it’s the same story, initially feeling negatively towards his replacement before actually getting to have a conversation with him and having a total change of heart.
Co-host A.J. Hawk shared a similar story Michael Irvin once told after his time in Dallas.
“He said something like, when I was done with the Cowboys, I wanted them to do terrible,” Hawk said. “I wanted them to think they need me, that I’m the guy. And then he said he quickly snapped out of it.”
While Roethlisberger has plenty of online critics, those who played in the NFL seem to understand, and even agree, with what he told Pickett. All that matters now is that Roethlisberger is one of Pickett’s biggest supporters and hopefully someone Pickett can lean on from time to time throughout his Steelers journey.