Le'Veon Bell: Ben Roethlisberger Tough to Play With; 'Wants to Win His Way'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 hands the ball of to Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field on October 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Count running back Le'Veon Bell among the former Pittsburgh Steelers who found it difficult to play with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated (h/t ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler), the newly signed New York Jets running back expressed his belief that Big Ben wants to win on his terms, which causes issues with other offensive players at times:                

"The organization wants to win. [Coach Mike] Tomlin wants to win. Ben wants to win—but Ben wants to win his way, and that's tough to play with. Ben won a Super Bowl, but he won when he was younger. Now he's at this stage where he tries to control everything, and [the team] let him get there. So if I'm mad at a player and I'm not throwing him the ball—if I'm not throwing A.B. the ball and I'm giving JuJu [Smith-Schuster] all the shine or Jesse [James] or Vance [McDonald] or whoever it is, and you know consciously you're making your other receiver mad but you don't care—it's hard to win that way."

When asked if he left Pittsburgh because of Roethlisberger's presence, Bell noted that there were multiple reasons for his departure but added, "Yes, it was a factor."

In addition to losing Bell in free agency, the Steelers dealt Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders this offseason after he requested a trade.

The beginning of the end of Brown's tenure in Pittsburgh occurred in the days leading up to the Steelers' Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals last season. After a reported argument with Roethlisberger, per Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown sat out practice the rest of the week and was not active for the Cincinnati game.

Prior to having his trade request granted, Brown answered a question about Roethlisberger on Twitter and suggested that while Big Ben is allowed to criticize others, the quarterback is protected in that regard:

Speaking with ESPN, Bell acknowledged Brown's comments but said the blame for why things went sour in Pittsburgh doesn't rest on a single player: "A lot of things AB said, it had a lot of truth to it. I've had some of those interactions. I don't react like AB does. AB isn't the only bad guy in the situation. Ben isn't the only bad guy either. It's not just one person. It ain't just me. It's everybody."

While Brown's relationship with Roethlisberger was clearly strained, Bell told Sports Illustrated that he wished he personally had a "more open, more genuine, more real" relationship with the Pittsburgh quarterback.

Bell sat out the entire 2018 season rather than signing his franchise tender with the Steelers, and he signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets this month.

While the Steelers missed the playoffs last season with a 9-6-1 record, Roethlisberger led them to the postseason in each of the previous four campaigns.

The 37-year-old quarterback is coming off the best statistical season of his career. He threw for a career-high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns to go along with 16 interceptions. With Bell out of the picture, Pittsburgh relied even more heavily on Roethlisberger and the passing game than usual.

Although Roethlisberger's leadership has come into question, he is a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion who will almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his career comes to an end.

Bell has moved on to a Jets team that may not be quite as ready to win as the Steelers have been, but with a young quarterback in Sam Darnold at the helm, New York may present an environment that is more to his liking.

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