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Steelers' Cam Heyward: Ben Roethlisberger Jabs at NFL Players 'Rub Me the Wrong Way'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 27, 2022

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said he disagrees with an assessment from longtime teammate Ben Roethlisberger, who suggested NFL players moved away from a team-first approach during the latter stages of his career.

Big Ben, who retired in January, told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week the biggest difference in the NFL from when he arrived in 2004 to his departure was how it "turned from a team-first to a me-type attitude."

The Steelers' defensive captain addressed that stance on his Not Just Football with Cam Heyward podcast, saying the remarks "rub me the wrong way," per ESPN.

"It looks as though we are looked at as selfish players, and I don't think that's the point," Heyward said. "We have a lot of young players that come from different backgrounds, have experienced different things from what others or I may have experienced. That doesn't make them selfish or more of a me-type attitude. ... There are a lot more team-first guys than me-type attitude. I took offense to that."

Here's further comments from the five-time Pro Bowl selection on the topic:

Brooke Pryor @bepryor

On his pod, Cam Heyward rebutted Ben Roethlisberger’s comments on an influx of “me-first” players<br><br>“when it all comes together, we care about one thing, this logo right here. ... I've always tried to extend that to my younger teammates. I think Ben was a little out on that one." <a href="https://t.co/2QtMr6C6f7">pic.twitter.com/2QtMr6C6f7</a>

Roethlisberger, who said his comments would probably come off like he's standing on a soapbox, explained he felt the situation was a byproduct of how players are treated during their rise toward the NFL.

"It was hard. It's hard for these young guys, too," he told Cook. "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."

Heyward countered by saying the onus is on veteran players to take younger counterparts under their wing and, speaking specifically to his situation, help them understand why Pittsburgh has become one of the most stable organizations in sports.

"But it's up to the older guys to step up and hold guys accountable," he said on the podcast. "... It's up to a vet to put you under your wing and pull you across and say, 'Hey, this is what it's like to be Pittsburgh Steeler.' And that's what I'm trying to do."

Perhaps part of the problem from Big Ben's perspective is his own career trajectory.

He arrived to a Steelers organization that was ready-made to contend for championships. They reached the Super Bowl three times in his first seven seasons, winning a pair of titles along the way.

Beginning in 2011, however, Pittsburgh went 3-7 in the playoffs and didn't advance beyond the divisional round in any of Roethlisberger's final five seasons.

"I'm accountable for those guys," Heyward said. "Obviously we haven't had a Super Bowl in a long time, and maybe that's where Ben is like, 'Man, if those guys would have grown up.'"

Regardless, the Steelers are moving on to a new generation.

They signed former Chicago Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round to compete for the starting quarterback job following Roethlisberger's retirement.

It'll put even more pressure on Heyward to fill a leadership role as the Steelers attempt to remain competitive in an AFC loaded with Super Bowl contenders.

Pittsburgh kicks off the regular season Sept. 11 when it visits Paul Brown Stadium to take on the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.

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