The captain of the Steelers’ defense thinks the captain of the Steelers’ offense needs to change the way he’s playing.
The offensive captain’s response? Ben Roethlisberger is going to be Ben Roethlisberger, no matter what Ryan Clark thinks.
With the Steelers (0-4) still winless as mid-October approaches, there was bound to be some internal restlessness. It finally surfaced when Clark suggested Roethlisberger cut back on his improvisational playmaking because he is taking too many sacks (15) and committing too many turnovers (nine).
Clark emphasized he isn’t trying to single out Roethlisberger but rather is identifying a team-wide problem.
“We need to protect Ben. Defensively, we need to make plays so Ben doesn’t feel like he has to do everything. Offensively, we need to protect him so he can get the ball out,” Clark said Wednesday. “The receivers need to get open. The running backs need to run the ball.
“But in that as well, he needs to understand that, as constructed right now, we aren’t playing well enough as a team to where we can take sacks and have turnovers. That’s a team solution, but the quarterback has to spearhead it.”
Clark was expanding on weekend remarks he made to ESPN in which he said, “You to have to protect Ben against Ben. Right now, we have to tone Ben down in a sense and say, ‘Hey, right now, we’re not a good enough football team for you to try to extend plays, for us to take sacks, for us to have turnovers.’ ”
The Steelers are minus-11 in giveaways/takeaways, second worst in the league to the Giants’ minus-13.
Roethlisberger, only rarely subjected to public critique by one of his teammates, responded diplomatically as the Steelers resumed practicing for Sunday’s game at the Jets (3-2).
“It is what it is. I’m just going to play the game the way that I play it and try not to turn it over,” said Roethlisberger, who has been forced repeatedly to manufacture plays because of his offensive line’s pass protection breakdowns.
Asked if he appreciated a teammate reviewing the way he plays, Roethlisberger said, “That’s the great thing about the country we live in. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and allowed to say what they want. If Ryan feels that way, then that’s fine.”
Coach Mike Tomlin effectively defended his quarterback Tuesday by saying, “It (the improvisation) depends on the circumstances and situations. Obviously, sometimes game circumstances dictate that you take calculated risks.”
Tomlin is attempting to shore up Roethlisberger’s spotty pass protection by benching left tackle Mike Adams for either Levi Brown or Kelvin Beachum.
Clark, often the most outspoken player in the locker room, insisted he wasn’t trying to create any kind of rift on a team that doesn’t need one. He explained he was responding to Roethlisberger’s own remarks that he tried to create too much during the 34-27 loss to the Vikings on Sept. 29.
“When you articulate very well, and are well thought out in what you say and make a lot of sense, sometimes people try to twist it into something else,” Clark said. “When I say things, it’s going to be black and white. There’s no need to try to make it into anything else or make it like I’m talking (badly) about Ben.”