Steelers players critical of Ben Roethlisberger’s practice habits, leadership
It is no secret that Ben Roethlisberger had serious issues with Antonio Brown on both a personal and professional level when the two were teammates, but the drama between the two has left many wondering if the quarterback has trouble getting along with other Pittsburgh Steelers players. At the very least, it seems clear that Big Ben is far from a perfect leader.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler interviewed more than 25 people — including current and former teammates — about Roethlisberger’s leadership skills and work habits. While many were complimentary of the two-time Super Bowl champion and pointed to a body of work that speaks for itself, the overall theme is that Big Ben can improve as a leader and has been making efforts to do so.
One current Steelers player who is described as having “quality starter experience” told Fowler he has no relationship with Roethlisberger. That seems to be true of other players as well, as former Pittsburgh running back Josh Harris says Roethlisberger didn’t speak with him for over a month after he was promoted from the practice squad in 2014. Even then, Big Ben only made an effort to establish a relationship with Harris when Le’Veon Bell went down with an injury in Week 17.
“That’s where it kind of rubs people the wrong way,” Harris said. “When you come out and [criticize a teammate the way Roethlisberger has with Brown] and there is no preexisting relationship, [it’s harder to] say, ‘OK, he’s saying this because he wants me to be a better player.'”
Veteran linebacker Vince Williams said he thinks some younger players are “starstruck” by Roethlisberger, and he has told the quarterback it’s on him to become more approachable. Roethlisberger acknowledges that, and it’s one of the reasons he hosted teammates at his home in Georgia during the offseason.
After the 2018 season, Brown went scorched-earth on Roethlisberger and criticized him for having an “owner mentality.” One current Steelers player referred to Big Ben as “the owner” while speaking with Fowler.
Then there’s the idea of special treatment, which you could easily argue Roethlisberger has earned. However, several former Steelers players who have played with other QBs said they were surprised Roethlisberger takes days off from practice, usually using Wednesdays as rest days.
“Fair or not, one player said, Roethlisberger’s penchant for missing practices almost weekly and then coaching players hard when he participates can seem to suggest that everyone is on his time,” Fowler wrote.
The Steelers have spoken a lot about having better chemistry now that Brown and Bell are out of the picture, but they will be leaning heavily on Roethlisberger to help them find a new (or old?) identity. While Big Ben has had plenty of current and former teammates enthusiastically defend his leadership abilities, he clearly falls short in some areas.