Future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement from the NFL earlier this offseason. He played his entire 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team never finished a season with a record under .500, making the postseason 12 times. Twice they climbed the mountain top to win the Super Bowl following the 2005 and 2008 seasons.
Last week, an interview with Roethlisberger was released by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which he discussed a number of topics. One thing, in particular, rubbed Cameron Heyward, a teammate of Roethlisberger’s since he was drafted in 2011 and a team captain since 2015, the wrong way.
Roethlisberger made some comments about players in the current NFL not having a team-first attitude, instead being me-first players. He believes that the game and people have changed from when he began his career in 2004 to when he retired a few months ago.
“The team was so important,” Roethlisberger said, referring to his first few seasons with Pittsburgh. “It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other.
“I might be standing on a soapbox a little bit, but that’s my biggest takeaway from when I started to the end. It turned from a team-first to a me-type attitude. It was hard. It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college. Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable. They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too. I know coach [Terry] Hoeppner never coddled me. Neither did [Bill] Cowher.”
On a recent episode of his podcast, “Not Just Football with Cam Heyward”, he disagreed with what Roethlisberger said. He went as far as to say he was made a little bit upset about them.
“It looks as though we are looked at as selfish players, and I don’t think that’s the point. We have a lot of young players that come from different backgrounds, have experienced different things from what others or I may have experienced. That doesn’t make them selfish or more of a me-type attitude. … There are a lot more team-first guys than me-type attitude. I took offense to that.”
The 33-year-old Heyward has certainly seen a lot during his time with the Steelers. There have been huge personalities, such as the ones possessed by Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, that draw the ire of some people outside the organization. Tyson Alualu and Brett Kiesel were two more examples that he used of players who were integral to the locker room and success on the field that had critics questioning their personalities.
As a captain, it is part of Heyward’s responsibility to help the young guys get used to how things are in the NFL and the culture that the Steelers instill. He did offer some guesses as to where Roethlisberger may be coming from to make the comments that he did.
“I’m accountable for those guys,” Heyward said. “Obviously we haven’t had a Super Bowl in a long time, and maybe that’s where Ben is like, ‘Man, if those guys would have grown up.’ But it’s up to the older guys to step up and hold guys accountable. … It’s up to a vet to put you under your wing and pull you across and say, Hey, this is what it’s like to be Pittsburgh Steeler.’ And that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Maybe Ben didn’t see it that way, but man, I’m going to protect my guys. You just can’t say it’s a ‘me-type of attitude’ now. Everyone’s out to be a Super Bowl winner, make money, one day be an MVP. But when it all comes together, we care about one thing, this logo right here. … I’ve always tried to extend that to my younger teammates. I think Ben was a little out on that one.”
There is certainly a chance that Roethlisberger is referencing the years of the “Killer B’s” when he had weapons Le’Veon Bell, Brown and Martavis Bryant around him. They were never able to win a Super Bowl despite routinely having one of the best teams in the NFL.
Hayward also wanted to make sure that these comments were taken as him throwing shade at Roethlisberger. He gave his former quarterback plenty of praise for helping the team win games throughout the years, but that he will always stick up for the Steelers and it took more than just Roethlisberger to find the amount of success that Pittsburgh has over the last two decades.