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Retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had quite a bit to say in a recent, wide-ranging interview. But not all of his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammates seemed to agree with Big Ben’s takes on modern NFL players.
One of Roethlisberger’s quotes from that story that seemed to resonate was when he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook that players were less me-centric when Roethlisberger first entered the league in 2004 than when he left the game in early 2022.
“I feel like the game has changed,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel like the people have changed in a sense. Maybe it’s because I got spoiled when I came in. The team was so important. It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other.”
But current Steelers captain Cameron Heyward, who played with Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh from 2011 to 2021, seemed to take exception to this, saying that his former teammate’s comments “rub me the wrong way” and “made him a little upset” when speaking on his “Not Just Football with Cam Heyward” podcast.
“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 (having) more of a me-type attitude. … There are a lot more team-first guys than me-type attitude. I took offense to that.”
Heyward expounded on the matter with NFL Network’s Judy Battista during Inside Training Camp Live on Wednesday.
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” he said. “… Ben’s always going to be one of my favorite quarterbacks because he’s one of the only quarterbacks I’ve ever had, But I think we’ve got to remember that we are team-first, we are going out here every day trying to get better as a group.
“I think he might have misspoke, but at the end of the day, we all have to rally around trying to get better. It’s a different way now. Back when he came in the league, there was no social media. Now guys have so many different outlets, but that shouldn’t be frowned upon. I think it’s something we have to deal with and grow with, as do media and everybody else does. It’s a different world, and we just have to be ready to embrace it.”
Certainly, the drama created by ex-Steelers Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell — while the team was viewed as potential Super Bowl contenders — comes immediately to mind in light of what Roethlisberger said. But he didn’t name-drop either of those players, leaving his comments pretty open-ended, which suggests it was more of a blight in his eyes than just two former teammates who might have been selfish.
Roethlisberger continued: “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. Neither did [Bill] Cowher.”
Heyward went on in the podcast to say that he felt it was his role to protect his Steelers teammates from that type of criticism.
“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. …’
“But it’s up to the older guys to step up and hold guys accountable. … 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.”
Heyward also made sure to note that this wasn’t an attack on Roethlisberger, but rather a way of giving context to what Ben said.
“Don’t say Cam is calling out Ben — it’s not like that,” Heyward said. “But I will say, I’ll protect my team. I will make sure that everybody knows that we care only about football on the field and less about off the field.
“We can all understand Ben has been a heck of a QB. You don’t do this game and become a Hall of Fame quarterback and do it at a low level. Ben has taken some hits not a lot of other teams could do. He saved us, he won games we weren’t supposed to win, and he’s always stepped up. But it was the team around him that helped him do it, and I don’t want anyone to ever forget that the whole team won — not just Ben.”
Roethlisberger retired in January, shortly after the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Chiefs. In his 18-year career with the Steelers, Roethlisberger led the team to two Super Bowl victories, was named to six Pro Bowls and finished his career as the fifth-leading passer all time with 64,088 yards.
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