ShareThis Page
Tim Benz: Are the Steelers liars or just dumb? |
Breakfast With Benz

Tim Benz: Are the Steelers liars or just dumb?

Tim Benz
| Tuesday, December 11, 2018 5:42 a.m
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, left, talks with head coach Mike Tomlin during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Let’s stop overcomplicating what happened with Ben Roethlisberger’s injury situation on Sunday during the Steelers’ season-altering 24-21 loss in Oakland.

Many are doing that in Pittsburgh because the more we layer the explanation, the less we are forced to acknowledge one of two clear-cut descriptions of what took place when it came to Roethlisberger being stashed on the bench.

The Steelers either were …

1. Stupid …

or …

2. Lying.

Neither option is pleasant to admit. Yet one of the two has to be true. You can believe either one, based on how you choose to reconcile your fandom of a team that normally should be held in high regard. But, in this situation, there isn’t a more plausible third option.

Simply put, either coach Mike Tomlin was ignorant about the game situation. Or, he and his quarterback aren’t being forthcoming in their explanation to you, the fan.

There is no middle ground.

I’m going to go with Option 1. And I say that with more than two decades of experience covering pro and college teams telling white lies, veiled versions of reality and textured presentations of truth.

I’ll get to why I think that in a minute. First, let’s investigate Option 2.

If Roethlisberger is lying when he said he was “just let(ting) coach tell me to go,” then we must assume that he is telling a different version of what really happened in the locker room or on the sideline. Thus, he’s totally hanging his coach out to dry.

Under lesser circumstances, that wouldn’t be hard to believe. But this is much bigger than whether “Coach Todd” allowed a quarterback sneak in the playbook, or if Antonio Brown didn’t run his pattern shallow enough in Denver, or how they botched the anthem silliness in Chicago.

Or if he really had broken toes in 2004, or if James Washington should’ve jumped for the ball down the sideli …

OK, maybe I’m making a case for the other side here by accident.

But the point is, the franchise quarterback is telling the world he was ready to play and never got a green light from the Super Bowl-winning coach in a game that resulted in a loss that may cost the organization a spot in the playoffs.

If that’s a false version of what took place, I’d imagine that would fracture the Tomlin-Roethlisberger relationship beyond repair. If Big Ben isn’t being truthful, Tomlin should’ve told his own version. Or he better do so at his own news conference on Tuesday.

If that happens, I’ll retract all of this on Wednesday. And we’ll have a mushroom cloud over the South Side.

Furthermore, for a guy who normally explains his own injuries in extreme detail, wasn’t it odd that Roethlisberger suddenly deferred all medical explanations to Tomlin? It struck me as forcing the coach to verbalize why a tolerable, managed injury kept the starting quarterback sidelined.

Plus, we’ve seen Roethlisberger play through more obvious injuries than this. Remember when he re-entered the 2015 playoff game in Cincinnati with a bad shoulder and started the next week against Denver? How about when he played through that bad ankle in San Francisco in 2011 and refused to exit a blowout loss? Or when he had to enter the game as an injured backup against Cleveland in 2015 when Landry Jones got hurt on the second drive?

Based on how he performed in this game against the Raiders when he came back, did he look worse than any of those times to you? Because he didn’t in my eyes.

That’s why I go with Option 1. It was just a dumb decision to keep Josh Dobbs in the game for — as Tomlin said ­— an extra “possession or so” beyond when Ben Roethlisberger was capable of coming back onto the field.

It seems to me that — for whatever reason — the line between trailing and being ahead was really thick in Tomlin’s eyes. Apparently, in Tomlin’s opinion, that “possession or so” wasn’t all that crucial because they were winning by four points at the time.

Based on the play of Tomlin’s fourth-quarter defense of late, that narrow lead shouldn’t have given him comfort in his analysis.

If the Steelers are up by four in the fourth quarter of any game, Tomlin should coach as if they are down by three. Because those numbers indicate that eventuality will soon be the case.

Also, I have no idea what “rhythm and flow” Tomlin was trying to protect with Dobbs on the field when none of his four second-half possessions resulted in points. That was a strange explanation since he had no issue putting Roethlisberger back in during the Baltimore game after Dobbs completed a 22-yard pass from his own end zone.

I think Mike Tomlin foolheartedly believed he could “get by” or “stay afloat” with Dobbs against a bad Raiders club. He naively did so despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary when it comes to his club’s historical ability to put away heavy underdog Oakland teams.

That should make every Steelers fan angrier than a massaged version of the truth. We should be used that. Coaching negligence is a different story.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.