The Steelers offense—behind coordinator Todd Haley, coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—did not perform well in the postseason.Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Nobody thinks Ben Roethlisberger is serious about his threatened retirement.
But he should be.
The aches and pains of being nearly 35 and having started 13 NFL seasons duly noted, the origin of Roethlisberger’s pondering follows a clear timeline:
At midseason, Roethlisberger spoke to coach Mike Tomlin about some of the Steelers’ young players lacking focus. After New England eliminated the Steelers, Roethlisberger said the game was “too big” for, presumably, the same youthful teammates. Two days later, Roethlisberger said he might quit.
Roethlisberger is frustrated with the workplace, and should be.
If I were Roethlisberger, I’d retire.
I’m excluding money from my decision-making. Roethlisberger has made $158 million on his career, but I don’t know how much he’s got, or wants to have. Roethlisberger would earn $46 million more if he played out his contract. If he quit, he might have to repay a pro-rated piece of his signing bonus. Estimates for that restitution range as high as $19 million.
That’s a big check. It might even be too big for Antonio Brown to pose with.
But money isn’t everything. You can’t buy respect, or peace of mind.
Despite a successful season, turmoil engulfs the Steelers. It will get worse, not better.
Brown’s selfishness and ego have run roughshod over the organization. Brown did the media rounds at the Super Bowl, and said that Tomlin wasn’t really mad about Brown’s locker-room video on Facebook Live after the Steelers beat Kansas City in the divisional round, but Tomlin told Brown he had to pretend for appearance’s sake.
Either that’s an inexcusable lie, or Tomlin should never be taken seriously again.
No word on whether Tomlin has yet climbed out from under the bus. Team president Art Rooney II characterized Brown’s indiscretions as “minor annoyances,” and the Steelers will soon offer Brown in excess of $40 million guaranteed by way of a contract extension.
Does anybody think a big heap of cash will help Brown grow up?
Roethlisberger is likely still fuming about having to pacify Brown after DeAngelo Williams, not Brown, scored the first touchdown of the Steelers’ AFC championship game loss at New England, which sent Brown into a tizzy. Roethlisberger didn’t see that as a “minor annoyance.”
Validating Brown’s shenanigans -- he’s the doyen of a growing Steelers’ pack in that regard -- makes it difficult for Roethlisberger (or anyone else) to lead. Rallying that roster around the hypocycloids is like herding cats. That’s a big reason Troy Polamalu’s farewell sigh of relief could be heard long and loud.
Roethlisberger is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion and an all-time Steelers great. But he doesn’t have the proper respect of Tomlin, or the Steelers’ organization. He never has.
In 2010, despite no charges being filed for what Roethlisberger didn’t do in Milledgeville, Ga., the NFL suspended Roethlisberger for six games (later cut to four). The Steelers stood by the suspension, not their quarterback. Ownership seemed content with the ban, perhaps even happy.
Fast-forward to 2016, when New England Patriots ownership and management fought like wolverines for their QB, Tom Brady, over deflated footballs and a cell phone.
Four weeks ago, assistant coach Joey Porter was arrested because of a drunken altercation at a South Side bar following the Steelers’ wild card-round playoff win over Miami. He was with players. Porter was back on the sideline coaching a week later.
Hello, buddy system. Tomlin and Porter are friends. Porter creates disturbances at North Catholic High School football games while Tomlin watches. The police showed up for that, too.
The Steelers are a bad situation for Roethlisberger.
At home with his wife and three kids is a good situation for Roethlisberger.
Arizona, playing for the “retired” Bruce Arians, seems a happy medium. But it’s doubtful that Roethlisberger would relocate.
So, if I’m Roethlisberger, I quit. Being the centerpiece of such a toxic scenario can’t be tolerable for Roethlisberger, let alone fun. You're always undoing somebody else's damage.
Watching Roethlisberger play is enjoyable. I would miss it.
But his retirement would create a situation that provides lots of laughs: We would see how smart Tomlin really is, and how good Brown really is. The former’s wins would shrink. So would the latter’s stats. How long before Brown would want out? The Steelers are 6-10 without Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has been the most important member of the Steelers’ organization since practically the day he was drafted. Quitting would remind everybody of just that, and quickly.
Some appear to have forgotten, including most of this drama’s cast.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).