Kevin Gorman: Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown must be exceptional
The Pittsburgh Steelers should thank their lucky stars, to borrow a favorite phrase of the week, that Ben Roethlisberger never worried that Antonio Brown’s “trade me” tweet was a real threat.
A team that’s 0-1-1, to borrow their least favorite phrase, can’t afford to have its superstar quarterback and superstar wide receiver in a spat when its superstar running back is creating a splash.
The Steelers’ soap opera took an unexpected plot twist: Big Ben had AB’s back, twice calling him “the best in the world” and offering public support for his favorite target amid controversy.
“We’re all frustrated because we’re not winning right now,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s not the only guy who gets frustrated during the game. We all get frustrated. When you’re the best in the world you might get a little more frustrated than others but AB is a very passionate football player. We all know that, the fans know that. It’s what makes him special, is his passion for this game and the passion to be great.
“We’re not going to want to take that away from him.”
Roethlisberger’s support came after a former Steelers public relations assistant tweeted that “Ben got AB paid” and “you know darn well he wouldn’t put up those numbers for other teams,” to which Brown replied “Trade me lets find out.” If that was an idle threat, Brown only fanned the flames by missing team meetings on Monday. His absence allowed trade talk to linger until his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was forced to dismiss it.
Good thing Roethlisberger cleared the air by talking directly to Brown.
“If I spoke to him and personally he reiterated those things to me or if I felt they were personally coming from him and not just a reaction to someone else, maybe I’d have a little more worry,” Roethlisberger said, “but, as of now, I don’t feel that, any worry.”
That was the first step in a positive direction for the Steelers, hopefully a sign that their social-media sideshow is about to stop. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced in the afternoon that Brown had been disciplined for missing meetings on Monday, albeit without announcing the actual punishment.
If the Steelers are to save a season that’s off to an ignominious start, it will require Roethlisberger’s leadership. Not only is he a team captain but the 15-year veteran is the Steelers’ lone holdover from their Super Bowl XL champions.
“I think it’s important,” Roethlisberger said. “I just keep trying to lead by example: Do my job, show up to work and playing my butt off.”
But if Brown learned that there are different sets of rules for different players — some might call that exceptionalism — from anyone on the Steelers, it was from Roethlisberger.
The Rooneys stood by Big Ben during the days of his boorish behavior, knowing how difficult it is to find a franchise quarterback. He rewarded their support by becoming the most prolific passer in franchise history. So, it should come as no surprise that they will do the same with Brown, on his way to becoming its most prolific receiver.
Never has there been a better pass-catch combination in club history. If the Steelers had beaten the Browns and Chiefs, we would be talking this week about how Big Ben and AB moved into fourth place in NFL history with 712 completions.
Instead, a Twitter tiff caused tidal waves.
If Brown is unhappy about his production —— despite 33 targets and 18 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown — he should express his frustration directly with his quarterback instead of screaming at assistant coaches on the sideline.
If Brown is having trouble handling the pressures of superstardom, Roethlisberger should serve as a sounding board. Big Ben has learned how to handle dealing with the media, win or lose, and stays off social media.
Truth is, Big Ben and AB need each other.
The Steelers’ success is tied to their superstars, so they need them to be exceptional — with no exceptions.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.