The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have fallen apart internally this season — for a number of reasons.
First, star running back Le’Veon Bell sat out the entirety of the season in order to protect his health over a contract dispute. Then, wide receiver Antonio Brown missed the final game of the year, and then started publicly feuding with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlesberger clapped back multiple times, too, both in public and reportedly in the locker room and in meetings. General manager Kevin Colbert backed Roethlesberger, too, saying earlier this week that he is “unquestionably the leader of this team.”
While there are multiple factors that played into the Steelers’ issues, former Pittsburgh star Hines Ward said one of the biggest issues has to do with Roethlisberger’s leadership skills.
“It’s disappointing just to hear all the talks off the field with the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s really never been the case,” Ward told the NFL Network. “It’s unfortunate. Two great talents like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown aren’t going to be on the team going into next season. But yes, Ben is the leader of that team. He’s been there, he’s done that. I just think he has to take the initiative to kinda do more as a leader. Not just being able to call guys out on his radio show. Take them behind — treat them like, you know we always say we’re a band of brothers — like, pull me to the side, let me know what I can do to get better. You don’t have to air it out to the public where everyone can hear. So I just think he needs to do a better job of that.”
Ward played all 14 of his season in the NFL with the Steelers, and he recorded more than 12,000 yards and 85 touchdowns before retiring in 2014. Half of his time in the league was with Roethlisberger as his quarterback, too.
If anybody knows what it’s like to play alongside Big Ben, it’s Ward.
Ward has been openly critical of the leadership with the franchise in general, too, and singled out Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin to Yahoo Sports after the team failed to make the playoffs this season.
“To me it all starts with the head coach Mike Tomlin,” Ward told Yahoo Sports before the Super Bowl. “When you give some leniency with players based on whatever, you’re only fining them — a player can only do what you allow them to do.”
Based on Ward’s previous comments, what he told the NFL Network on Friday is nothing new. But clearly, nothing has changed in Pittsburgh — and it’s irked one of the most popular players in franchise history enough that he’s still speaking out about how bad it is.
He did have some advice for the team going forward, though.
Just stick to the basics.
“For the Steelers, just get back to playing football,” Ward told the NFL Network. “That’s always been our motto; just lining up and kicking tail and that’s what I think, for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they gotta get back to just doing that.”
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