Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger sensed what he believed to be a shift across the NFL as his career wound down.
The six-time Pro Bowler told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook "the game has changed" with players focusing on themselves more than their team. He added it's something that extends beyond the pro level:
"I might be standing on a soapbox a little bit, but that’s my biggest takeaway from when I started to the end. It turned from a team-first to a me-type attitude. It was hard. It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college. Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable. They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too. I know coach [Terry] Hoeppner never coddled me [at Miami of Ohio]. Neither did [Bill] Cowher."
Generational divides are nothing new, and plenty of Roethlisberger's predecessors surely echoed the same kind of arguments after they retired.
Of course, there's a level of irony in Big Ben making these complaints, since he wasn't exactly a model teammate during his 18-year run.
"I'd be the first to admit I wasn't a good teammate early in my career," he said to Dan Pompei for Bleacher Report in 2015. "... With time, you understand you can't keep being a selfish player or person. It's the ultimate team sport, and in order to be successful, you have to be selfless. Just like being a successful father, you have to be selfless."
Five years earlier, former Steelers running back Najeh Davenport told ESPN's William Weinbaum that Roethlisberger, coming off the Steelers' 2005 Super Bowl title, drew the ire of others on the team because he "he didn't respect what it took to be like a champion, like a true champion."
Much later in his career, the 40-year-old didn't shy away from calling out teammates and coaches in public.
It seems like the same concerns Roethlisberger expressed to Cook could've been leveled against him when he was a member of the Steelers.