By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times Sports Correspondent | Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 8:18 pm
Ex-Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason criticized Ben Roethlisberger.
That’s like France criticizing Germany for lack of military acumen. Even if a valid point gets made, the track records simply can’t be ignored.
Esiason labeled Roethlisberger a “drama queen” because of his reputation, deserved or not, for embellishing injuries.
What’s that matter as long as Roethlisberger plays and produces?
There’s no denying it was a difficult year for the Steelers’ QB. A rough finish despite three touchdown passes in Sunday's meaningless home victory against Cleveland.
A potential MVP season collapsed because of injury. Roethlisberger missed three games and wasn’t the same when he returned, donning goat’s horns for losses to Dallas and Cincinnati, the latter destroying the Steelers’ playoff hopes.
Criticism of Roethlisberger is warranted. He’d be the first to agree. Despite solid personal stats, 8-8 doesn’t lie. Roethlisberger’s two-minute touch abandoned him.
But when detractors scorn Roethlisberger, he doesn’t get the same respect accorded others of his accomplishment level. If Tom Brady has been criticized with the same venom Roethlisberger too often absorbs, I haven’t heard about it.
Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl winner. He is a three-time Super Bowl participant. He engineered a two-minute drill to win Super Bowl XLIII. Brady has won three Super Bowls, but lost two. Nobody’s perfect.
Critics cite supposed imperfections in Roethlisberger’s style. He needs to tweak his game, we’re told. Steelers president Art Rooney II drew upon his vast playing and coaching experience to make that pronouncement.
What, exactly, does Roethlisberger need to tweak? This year, he got rid of the ball quicker. He threw the ball away more. He took shorter drops.
The result: Roethlisberger still got hurt, and the Steelers went 8-8.
Maybe Roethlisberger’s game was fine just the way it was. No tweak needed.
The Steelers are the only team in the NFL that would dumb down a top five quarterback. Yinzer Nation is the only fan base stupid enough to accept it.
Let’s examine the reason for that: The Steelers, and Steelers fans, have never really forgiven Roethlisberger for the transgressions alleged in Georgia and Nevada.
Evidence was flimsy. No charges were filed. But franchise-wise and fan-wise, the attitude toward Roethlisberger has never been the same. Ownership doesn’t want Roethlisberger (or anyone) to be bigger than the logo or the family. Never did. Fans believe Roethlisberger soiled the team’s squeaky-clean image.
That’s insanity, of course. James Harrison got convicted of domestic abuse, and he’s a Heinz Field hero. Alameda Ta’amu put bystanders and police at risk by driving drunk through Pittsburgh’s South Side, but he’s still on the roster. The Steelers haven’t been holier than thou since Ernie Holmes shot at a police helicopter in 1973, yet played five more seasons in Pittsburgh.
Thirteen men started at QB for the Steelers between their fourth and fifth Super Bowl wins. If you want to hate quarterbacks, hate those quarterbacks.
During his anti-Ben rant, Esiason listed the NFL’s top four QBs (Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees), which certainly delivers a message via Roethlisberger’s omission. Esiason also said that Roethlisberger “has to be a man,” and “not just on Sunday.”
What does that mean? I honestly have no clue.
Esiason seemed most annoyed by Roethlisberger pronouncing that his broken ribs threatened his aorta and thus his life, saying that “everybody across the NFL rolled his eyes.” The Steelers’ doctors didn’t roll their eyes, however. But if Todd Haley can coach football without having played it, I suppose Esiason can pretend to be a physician despite lack of a medical degree. Or a Super Bowl ring.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).