Roethlisberger's Comments Prove the Steelers Don't Have Real Locker Room Issues
On the same day, earlier this week, that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signed a restructured contract to give the team some salary cap relief, he also stepped to the podium to attempt to quell a burgeoning controversy.
It was just what the team needed before finger-pointing over last year's disappointing 8-8 finish had a chance to infect this year's club.
As Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Roethlisberger's recent comments came after safety Ryan Clark said there was a "fracture" in the Steelers' locker room.
The two-time Super Bowl winner and offensive captain wasn't hearing it.
"For anybody to say there are locker room issues or leadership issues are completely off base. I believe that's the frustration. I believe that it's frustration of last year, I honestly do."
That frustration that Roethlisberger is speaking of has been swirling around the Steelers for some time.
A couple of weeks ago, an anonymous teammate of linebacker LaMarr Woodley told the Post-Gazette's Ron Cook that Woodley was "awful" in 2012 and "wasn't in shape."
That led to Clark's comment, as well as wide receiver Antonio Brown stating that "It goes to show you that we wasn't a team in 2012."
Even former players chimed in, with Hines Ward saying that the Pittsburgh locker room was in "total disarray" last year.
At that point, Roethlisberger apparently decided that enough was enough and went public to squash the talk that the Steelers were a house divided.
Obviously, last year was frustrating for all of us, and when you're frustrated and the season doesn't go the way you want it to and things don't go the way you want them to, things are said. I know all too well, after the Dallas game I was frustrated and said some things.
The important thing to know is, there are no issues in our locker room. There are no issues with LaMarr. There are no issues on our team.
The big thing for us is to move forward. Last year was last year, it was 8-8. We're not happy about it.
There are frustrations, but you know what? We're done with it. We're moving forward and we're moving into this year ... with whoever's here, we're looking to move forward. And we know Woodley's going to be here and we know Woodley's going to be ready to go as we all are going to be.
For a player who has received his fair share of criticism in regards to his leadership abilities in the past, Roethlisberger handled this situation about as well as could possibly be expected.
Granted, the 2012 season didn't go as well as the Steelers had hoped. This is a team of veteran players who enter each season expecting to go to the Super Bowl.
To not even make the playoffs obviously stung.
However, regardless of how frustrated a player may be with a teammate or how the players in the Pittsburgh locker room feel about one another, at the end of the day, those are the sort of feelings that need to be kept behind closed doors. It's especially true in an era where one comment can be seen by millions of people in seconds.
A locker room divided is bad. One publicly divided is even worse.
Roethlisberger told Bouchette as much, while simultaneously trying to do some damage control and portray the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers as a united front.
No matter how the season goes, there's always going to be some kind of issue come up.
There's never perfect harmony in any locker room, never. There's always going to be some issue at some point in the year, that's how it works. But the thing is, how do you move on from it? These things should be put in the rear-view mirror and we should be looking forward.
I'm hoping by doing this to put a stop to it, to say, listen, everybody, as a leader in this locker room, as a guy who has been around here for a long time, I'm hoping that by saying there is no issue and this is fine, that this could be our exclamation point.
Let's move on with this offseason, to training, to getting ready. I don't think there's a reason to look back anymore.
That's what I'm hoping to just say: Done.
Does this mean that everything is sunshine and puppies now in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room? Of course not.
As Roethlisberger alluded to, in a locker room with 53 "alpha males," there are going to be conflicts.
That's where those conflicts need to stay—in the locker room.
Do the Pittsburgh Steelers have "leadership" problems?
For that reason, Roethisberger should be commended for doing what he did, as it's exactly what a team leader should do.
If his call to end the bickering doesn't stop, then the coaching staff needs to get involved.
For many years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been regarded as the model of professionalism, a team that has avoided the sort of public bickering and nonsense that permeates far too many NFL teams.
Roethlisberger was wise to try to nip this whole "controversy" in the bud.
Because if you let this sort of stuff continue, players continue spouting off to the media, and resentment and anger grow and fester...
Until one day, you wake up and realize you're the New York Jets.
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