PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – It ain’t a problem until Ben says it is a problem.
That’s the way we should look at the latest revelation out of Steeler Country.
And, look, if Ben says it is a problem, count me among those who believe it is a problem.
On Wednesday at his media availability, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doubled-down on something he first brought up Tuesday on his weekly appearance on the “Cook & Poni Show” on 93.7 The Fan. In Ben’s estimation, the Steelers might just be hitting too much — not hitting too much of the other team, but being caught in a game of friendly fire on too many occasions.
Oh yes, Big Ben thinks Mike Tomlin has his men undergoing practices that are too physical and participating in too many practices that are too physical and part of the offshoot has been injuries.
Roethlisberger just might have a very good point. This season, non-down-the-liners Ryan Shazier, Robert Golden, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert and Eli Rogers have missed time already and stalwart defensive lineman Cam Heyward won’t play on Sunday against the Dolphins and was iffy in the opener against Washington in what seems to be a year in which he’s been hobbled from the start.
But back to Ben …
When he speaks, people listen. And they should.
On Wednesday, he said: “I’m not one to complain because I don’t get hit like the other guys do. But I will stand up for the guys up front, the running backs and guys taking a pounding every day during a long season. … We pride ourselves as the Pittsburgh Steelers on being a physical football team. I know it’s a fine line you have to walk.”
Translation: I’m tired of the guys who are there to protect me — and the ones on the other side of the ball trying to get me the ball back — beating the hell out of one another in practice and it impacting me.
You know what? I agree with Ben a zillion percent here. Mike Tomlin and his hard-nosed practice ways have been scrutinized before, as the Steelers head coach generally dances right on that edge of preparing his team and pushing them a bit too far where the physicality in practice could be detrimental in the long run.
But, here we are now in unprecedented territory — someone complained about it. It wasn’t just some someone, either — it was the player on this team with the most cache and juice, probably even more yank than the coach.
The player — Ben in this case — didn’t do it privately, either. He used his very public radio show to let people know he (and most likely others) weren’t happy.
Another added layer is that it wasn’t just a team leader who did it publicly, but in Roethlisberger a guy who will never, ever, ever, ever have his toughness on gameday questioned. He is a guy who has been bruised and battered, beaten and tattered and managed to piece himself together as many times as humanly possible to command that huddle and his Steelers’ offense.
All this said, Ben spoke and now Tomlin and the staff have to listen. If I were betting on anything, I’d bet the physical nature of things in practice gets scaled back.
Again, it ain’t a problem until Ben says it is a problem.
And if he said it is, it is.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.