Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has never shied away from talking about his former teammates and coaches, sometimes critically. So it’s worth noting when he’s rather diplomatic about things.
That was his reaction to chatter about Ben Roethlisberger as a leader, with Harrison saying Monday that he found the quarterback to be “a good teammate and a good leader.”
This was James Harrison comment on Ben Roethlisberger from @TheHerd show today— "The people that are saying he's a bad teammate, that's their truth. For me, I think Ben is a good teammate and a good leader."
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) March 25, 2019
If this seems diplomatic toward all sides, it’s probably because it is. Harrison defended Antonio Brown, too, and Brown has been very critical of Roethlisberger’s leadership. Harrison has a problem with coach Mike Tomlin, but it doesn’t appear to extend to his former teammates, even those who are at odds.
Ben Roethlisberger has come under fire this offseason thanks to some of the things Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown have said about him on their way out of Pittsburgh, but Maurkice Pouncey wants to make it clear that not everyone who played with the quarterback feels that way.
In a lengthy interview with Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated, Bell admitted that Roethlisberger “was a factor” in his wanting to leave the Steelers. He indicated his belief is that Big Ben feels he’s bigger than the team.
“Quarterbacks are leaders; it is what it is,” Bell said. “(But) you’re still a teammate at the end of the day. You’re not (general manager) Kevin Colbert. You’re not (team owner) Art Rooney.”
Brown has made similar remarks about Roethlisberger this offseason, and Pouncey wanted to set the record straight on Wednesday.
View this post on Instagram
I’ve been with Ben going on 10yr I swear on my kids he is a true LEADER!! sucks to see players who leave and are mad at the organization now try and point fingers like they are perfect! But this is the world we live in now !
A post shared by Maurkice Pouncey (@maurkicepouncey) on
“I’ve been with Ben going on 10yr I swear on my kids he is a true LEADER!! sucks to see players who leave and are mad at the organization now try and point fingers like they are perfect! But this is the world we live in now!” Pouncey wrote.
Pouncey is not the first member of the Steelers organization to stand behind Roethlisberger this offseason, and you have to take anything Brown and Bell say with a grain of salt. They clearly had several strained relationships in Pittsburgh, even if their issues with Big Ben have attracted the most attention.
Antonio Brown has made it clear he wants to be traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he seems fully committed to that idea.
Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager wondered whether the situation could be salvaged by a phone call from Ben Roethlisberger to Brown to work things out. Fansided’s Jason Cole says Big Ben has tried to call Brown multiple times and that Brown won’t pick up the phone.
Roethlisberger has tried to call. Several times. AB won't pick up the phone. Whether he should or not is irrelevant. Fact is, he's not picking up. https://t.co/W2iLnHknmM
— Jason Cole (@JasonCole62) March 6, 2019
How long this has been going on is unclear, but it shows that Brown is not open to returning to the Steelers. If he were, he might answer these calls and try to work things out with his teammates. Instead, he’s ripped Roethlisberger’s “owner mentality” and seems to have distanced himself from the team completely. He wants out and that’s it.
If there’s any question, the Pittsburgh Steelers are on Ben Roethlisberger’s side when it comes to speaking publicly and sharing his opinion.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday that Roethlisberger has free reign to speak publicly as the organization’s clear leader and someone who has been there and done it all before.
Kevin Colbert emphatically endorsed Ben Roethlisberger's leadership, citing impassioned speech at halftime in Jax as one example. Colbert won't curb Big Ben sharing opinions on radio b/c "Ben’s the elder statesman. If the players were smart, they’d listen to him. he’s been there"
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 20, 2019
In other words, Antonio Brown, who has criticized exactly what the Steelers are praising here, is out of luck. There’s a reason the Steelers are willing to trade him. This is clearly Roethlisberger’s team, for better or worse, and his word carries a lot of weight — more than that of his teammates, Brown included.
Antonio Brown wants to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he appears willing to go scorched earth on his way out.
Brown blasted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Twitter Saturday when asked by a fan about the source of conflict between the two. Brown claimed Roethlisberger has an “owner mentality” and feels he can criticize anyone, and players who complain are shipped out of town because of the quarterback’s importance.
No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect! He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game. #truth https://t.co/MsSyBVd3Ny
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 16, 2019
In other words, Brown feels Roethlisberger can call anyone out and get away with it, but he’s the bad guy if he calls out his quarterback.
The fact that there’s bad blood between these two was not a secret, and Brown had been dropping some hints in his Twitter likes indicating that he was completely done with Roethlisberger. It’s pretty tough to see them clearing the air after this, especially with Brown trying to force his way out of Pittsburgh.
Antonio Brown may have given a sign on Friday that he is open to smoothing things over with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his social media activity still says otherwise.
When Brown essentially abandoned the Steelers during the final week of the regular season, a report claimed he had an ugly altercation with Ben Roethlisberger before he left the team. If that wasn’t evidence enough that the relationship between Brown and Roethlisberger is strained, perhaps Brown “liking” two tweets about the sexual assault allegations against Big Ben will be.
Antonio Brown liked tweets that said Ben Roethlisberger "raped"pic.twitter.com/4DvBhxSusG
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 15, 2019
It seems like Brown was just trying to point out that there is a double standard with how Steelers fans view players, but it says a lot that he called attention to the allegations against Roethlisberger. Though Roethlisberger has tried to downplay the issues between the two recently, he can’t be happy about that.
Brown has reportedly agreed to meet with Steelers owner Art Rooney II, but it still seems unlikely that he will remain with the team in 2019. The tweet he sent earlier in the week was fairly straightforward, and subtly calling out Roethlisberger is just further evidence that he’s not on good terms with his teammates.
Whatever his role in the recent Antonio Brown may have been, the Pittsburgh Steelers are clearly committed to Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Roethlisberger and the Steelers are set to do a contract extension and restructuring to grant Pittsburgh more cap room in the short-term.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger are expected to restructure and extend the veteran quarterback's deal before the new league year begins March 13, per league sources. More cap room if the team decides to trade WR Antonio Brown.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 5, 2019
As Schefter notes, the move will ensure that the Steelers have some cap space even if they move on from Antonio Brown and the significant dead cap money that would come with it. That dead cap money would only be a factor for a year, as was explored here, so that factor combined with a bit of extra money from a Roethlisberger restructuring may be reason to believe a Brown trade is somewhat realistic.