Owner Art Rooney II said he wanted Ben Roethlisberger to "tweak" his game. Pittsburgh radio and local I.E.P.'s caught fire, as though a mass panic and relief swept over Steelers Country all at once, depending on one's view of Ben's play.
There were two camps of thought after Rooney's comments, sounding off in a battle as follows:
"How could he expect Ben to change the way he quarterbacks?!" vs. "I've been saying this for years! Why didn't somebody explain this to No. 7 a whole lot earlier, before he lost playing time and suffered so many injuries?"
While Roethlisberger has been a fantastic quarterback, especially in the clutch, there's no question that his game has room for improvement. His ability to extend plays has translated into a bulky yards-per-attempt average and created a number of explosive opportunities downfield. Yet sometimes, he takes unnecessary chances and (truth be told) holds the ball too long.
Just sometimes! (As I cover my head, bracing for the rotten eggs and tomatoes of every Ben apologist...)
Roethlisberger had a great relationship with Arians, evidenced by his strong desire to keep the coordinator on staff. However, the choice of a quarterback, no matter his comfort, should never serve as a final word on decisions made by personnel, nor should it influence their approach if they feel change will make the team better.
In other words, a new system is coming, and Ben will need to be the consummate professional in helping to ensure its success. It may take time, and some fans may grow impatient early. If the offense struggles for a week or two, so be it, so long as the end result is improvement.
Frankly, two people working together in unison for such an extended time creates harmony, but it can also result in complacency. Perhaps Ben can find areas of improvement that would have never even been considered given his and Arians' comfort with each other.
The time for words like "shock" are over. For Big Ben, the new word needs to be "improvement."
Frankly, it will be. While many view Ben as the "protected" or "spoiled" quarterback calling all of the shots, nobody is more willing to put it all on the line to win, in spite of any sacrifices required, than No. 7.
It may not always be pretty, but being forced to examine one's own performance and truly "tweak" it is an expectation for all consummate professionals; not just quarterbacks. Accepting things as the same and being OK with mediocrity is not acceptable.
Ben Roethlisberger is a phenomenal athlete, so I fully expect him to embrace guidance, change and advisement with a positive outlook. It's a fine line to not handcuff him, considering his unique style. That can never be fully taken away.
Yet, a dozen fewer hits, a couple of faster reads and a few less interceptions will both prolong his career and help the offense achieve its goals.
Both parties have to be flexible and willing to hear the other, and I am sure they will be.