Issues don’t always have to be so polarizing.
That is to say, perhaps there is room for more than one side to be correct — maybe if something is black, the other side isn’t white; if something is down, the other side isn’t necessarily up.
Take for example what happened as Sunday played out in the converging worlds of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and NFL Network and NFL.com reporter Ian Rapoport.
Just a thought here, but maybe both men fully believe their words. At least that’s my takeaway.
Here is the thumbnail account of what went down …
On Sunday morning Rapoport reported that Roethlisberger is “incredibly frustrated” with the direction the franchise is headed and to expect the quarterback to ask the Steelers, in this coming off-season, to explore possible trade options but they would only trade him if they could replace him with a franchise quarterback. Also, Rapoport reported the Steelers fielded trade offers for Roethlisberger this past off-season.
How did Roethlisberger and the Steelers receive those reports? Not kindly.
During Sunday’s game — one in which the Steelers defeated Buffalo — team President Art Rooney II issued a statement that read:
“Contrary to erroneous reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not explored trading quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and have no plans to do so.”
Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner, also issued a statement on Sunday:
“Ian Rapoport’s apparent sources seem to be guessing what Ben feels about the Steelers and being traded. This is completely wrong and inaccurate. Ben has always said he wants to play his entire career for the Steelers, and his roots are set firmly in Pittsburgh he has a lot left in the tank & is 100% committed to winning more championships with the Steelers.”
After the game, the man in the epicenter of all of this, Roethlisberger, spoke.
“It is one of the most B.S. stories I have ever heard of,” Roethlisberger said of the report. “I’ve always said I want to be a Steeler for life. I love it here. I’m happy here and I don’t want to go anywhere.”
One would logically believe, with Roethlisberger and his agent coming out so vehemently and fervidly, that it will be far-fetched that the quarterback will be traded following this season. Roethlisberger, 31, has two years remaining on his contract and after this season the franchise is expected to make a pitch to him to extend that deal.
But back to Rapoport’s report that has drawn the ire of Rooney, Tollner, Roethlisberger and much of Steelers Nation.
From my vantage it isn’t conceivable, even in the least, that Rapoport woke up Sunday with the express need, want, directive or desire to be the person at the center of all of this fury.
That is to say, he didn’t want to be wrong and, from where he stands, perhaps he isn’t — maybe he was given information from a trusted source he believed to be 100 percent accurate and his source was wrong.
There are two independent issues at play here that came crashing together in what appears to be, for many, a calamity for Rapoport.
First is the issue of Roethlisberger’s trade talk, an issue that three people — Ben, his agent and Rooney — all have thrown a ton of extinguisher fluid on.
But, the second issue for Rapoport, which is somewhat independent, is what he was told by a trusted source. Most certainly, Rapoport was told by someone he trusted that all the information was accurate.
Got that? There are two issues for Rapoport here — the information and then the sourcing.
Never in a million years does a guy such as Rapoport — with a track record of being reliable and accurate — just make something up. Some callers to my show on 93.7 The Fan on Sunday night floated such a notion forward and, to be blunt, such a notion is lunacy.
A man such as Ian Rapoport doesn’t create fiction or push forth a made up narrative.
Could he have been given a bit of bum information from someone he really trusted? Yep.
Does Rapoport, perhaps, have to scrutinize his sources more carefully? Perhaps.
Did Rapoport maybe get burned here in the end? Maybe.
But, when he reported what he reported, he soundly believed it was accurate — and, who knows, it still might be.
Indeed, there is nothing to be gained for Rapoport for getting a story of this magnitude (or any story, really) wrong.
Remember this: Also as part of Rapoport’s report was that the Steelers plan to part with much of the offensive staff. No one — not Rooney, Tollner or Roethlisberger — came out and denied that portion of his report.
So, someone who appears to know something — most likely within the Steelers organization — is talking to Rapoport.
Do I think that Ben Roethlisberger will be traded away from the Steelers after this season? Absolutely not; not at all. Especially not after what he said in the aftermath of Sunday’s game.
But, do I believe Rapoport thought his reporting was accurate when he issued the report and might still believe so even after the denials? Absolutely.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.