I am not going to write an article saying that it is ever good to call out a teammate. I think it is not and Hines Ward made a mistake.
What I am going to do is list some quotes through the week that may have helped lead to the incident in question. Some articles that swayed our thinking as well as Ward's, that Ben would play.
The day after...
Roethlisberger said he felt well enough following the hit that he would have lobbied to go back into the game had the Steelers gotten another possession in overtime and in fact, he said he didn't even want to come out of the game to begin with.
That makes a person think the hit was not as bad as many may have thought, including the players, when they hear it from their own quarterback.
Ben is later quoted as saying...
"It’s part of the nature of the beast of playing this game. It’s a violent, physical contact sport and there’s a chance you’re going to get hit," Roethlisberger said. "You guys don’t talk about the bruises we have all over our body. If I showed you a bruise on my shoulder and a bruise on my shin, it wouldn’t get talked about as much. It’s a violent sport we play."
This sort of tells me that he is comparing this injury to your normal everyday bump and bruise and I am positive his teammates read into it the same way.
He seemed quite confident early on in the week by saying...
"If I can go out and pass thousands of tests and show I'm fine, then I'm not worried about it," Roethlisberger said of his injury."
He took the tests and then was quoted as saying...
"I've taken a thousand (neurological) tests and passed them all with flying colors."
By this time his teammates are very happy and secure in thinking that they will enter this very important division game with playoff implications with their captain and starting quarterback leading them.
It was even reported later on in the week...
He hasn't missed any practice and said it has been a normal week for him aside from the daily tests the Steelers have given him.
And even the guy on the team that knows him best was quoted as saying...
"He'll be fine," said defensive end Brett Keisel, Roethlisberger's closest friend on the team, "and we'll get this ball rolling."
So it seemed clear to his teammates as well as the many fans that support the Steelers that Ben was certainly going to play in this huge game.
In fact Jerome Bettis looked at Ward's comments from that very perspective. He said...
"I think it's probably a communication issue in that the guys saw him practicing and assumed he was going to play but didn't know what all was happening," Bettis said.
"The frustration is, 'What's the deal? We thought we had him. We thought he was playing,'" Bettis said. "I think it's a little blown up because it's Ben Roethlisberger."
He went on to say Monday, that he doesn't expect a rift to develop in the locker room following comments made by wide receiver Hines Ward. "I don't see it as being a big issue."
And Bettis' reasonings proved correct when Ward was later quoted, after the fact, as saying...his comments were a product of frustration as he thought Roethlisberger would play.
It is what they were being lead to believe all week long. In fact Santonio Holmes made similar comments of his own...
"We would have liked for him to play," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "If he had the opportunity, he should have played for us, but he didn't. And we didn't get the job done."
Sounds to me like Ward was not the only person seemingly let down by Big Ben.
Knowing the competitor inside Ward it is not hard at all to believe he would say those things. In fact, I think he was more let down that the players themselves were not told of what was going on until Saturday evening when Ward made those comments.
He did not make them directly before the game as many were lead to believe, they were made the day before and only televised before the game.
I find it even more interesting that Tomlin admits that even after he knew Ben was not playing, he didn't tell the team as a whole.
Tomlin said he didn't tell the players why Dixon took most of the snaps with the first-team offense during the Steelers' Saturday walk-through for several reasons...
"At the time, I was more concerned about getting Dennis ready to play," Tomlin said.
I also find it interesting that the incident was explained this way...
Maroon's recommendation came Saturday after Roethlisberger experienced exertion-induced headaches all week.
That doesn't sound like what the fans or Ward were being told all week, including what Ben was saying himself. It comes across as a little shady to say the least.
I feel that Tomlin was a big part of the problem as to why these players were frustrated and said the things they did, although it certainly doesn't make them right. He certainly should have keep them in the mix as far as being updated on Ben.
Tomlin later adds more fuel to the fire in my opinion by saying...and I quote...
"and I proceeded with the assumption that our men understood what kind of competitor (Roethlisberger) is. If they don't, I will tell them."
Sounds to me like he is blaming his players for his lack of communication skills. Had he told his team as soon as he found out, this may have never happened at all. And to now accuse them of being bad teammates is not the way to solve this problem.
That statement alone is enough to cause a rift among the players and this coach.
It seems to me like Tomlin may not be beyond his years as of yet, and may still need time to develop into the leader we all hope he can be.
Ward's comments came in the heat of the moment, minutes after he found out Ben was not going to play, while Tomlin's were after the fact and in response to what Ward had said.
He had more time to think things through and I do not believe he chose his words very well.
Lets all hope that things are mended in time for a final run to the playoffs. A little controversy and a few close loses tend to make teams stronger once they make it there.