Big Ben: Steelers locker room is perfectly fine
3/1/2013 12:00:00 AM
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger said he has heard enough, and it's time to put an end to it. The perception created by a few of his teammates that the Steelers locker room was in disarray last season just is not true, the quarterback insisted, and someone needed to say it.
So why not the veteran quarterback, the captain of the offense?
"For anybody to say there are locker room issues or leadership issues are completely off base," Roethlisberger said Thursday, shortly after he signed a restructured contract to create $6 million of salary cap room for the Steelers in 2013.
"I believe that's the frustration. I believe that it's frustration of last year, I honestly do."
Over the past two weeks, several Steelers commented on one anonymous teammate's criticism of LaMarr Woodley by saying it showed a schism among them in 2012. Ryan Clark said there was a "fracture" in the locker room. Antonio Brown said: "It goes to show you that we wasn't a team in 2012." A few others chimed in with milder comments seemingly agreeing with Clark and Brown.
Enough is enough, Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"Obviously, last year was frustrating for all of us, and when you're frustrated and the season doesn't go the way you want it to and things don't go the way you want them to, things are said. I know all too well, after the Dallas game I was frustrated and said some things.
"The important thing to know is, there are no issues in our locker room. There are no issues with LaMarr. There are no issues on our team.
"The big thing for us is to move forward. Last year was last year, it was 8-8. We're not happy about it. There are frustrations, but you know what? We're done with it. We're moving forward and we're moving into this year ... with whoever's here, we're looking to move forward. And we know Woodley's going to be here and we know Woodley's going to be ready to go as we all are going to be."
The comment by the anonymous Steelers player appeared in Ron Cook's Post-Gazette column Feb. 17 about Woodley: "He was awful. He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."
Clark and Brown turned that comment into a discussion on the "fracture" that was the locker room, sparking a new topic by going on sports television shows to talk about the so-called disconnect. Brown, a three-year veteran who was the team's MVP in 2011, even questioned the leadership on the Steelers.
Roethlisberger was adamant none of that is true.
"I want to make sure people know there is no issue in our locker room," Roethlisberger stated. "We've got great leadership. We have plenty of older guys -- myself now, Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, Willie Colon, Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton -- we have a ton of guys.
"The great thing is we have a lot of young guys stepping up as leaders -- Maurkice Pouncey, and, I feel last year Keenan Lewis did a great job stepping up; Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, all kinds of guys.
"I want it to be known there is no locker room issue, there is no leadership issue. Even if guys say it out of frustration, they're trying to find something to say. I think it's important to know we all have each other's back."
Hines Ward, one year into retirement, even joined the bandwagon, claiming the locker room was in "total disarray" last season. Roethlisberger took note of that without mentioning Ward by name.
"I know we've been criticized by past players for not having leadership, but we have great leadership in our locker room -- offense, defense, all over the place.
"I don't think it's because of a lack of leadership, I think it's because of frustration. We had an 8-8 year. The last time we were 8-8 was my third year. There were probably some things in that offseason that were said because of frustration.
"I've been around a lot of the guys, I've seen a lot of the guys, there are no issues. It's about moving forward, it's not harping on guys working out from last year. Nobody cares about last year anymore. We've talked about last year, we've put it in our rear-view mirror, now it's about moving forward."
Roethlisberger said that with a locker room with so many players -- 53 on the active roster, plus practice squad players and some on injured reserve -- things never go smoothly, regardless of the win-loss record. He saw nothing different last season than in any of his past eight with the Steelers.
"No matter how the season goes, there's always going to be some kind of issue come up. There's never perfect harmony in any locker room, never. There's always going to be some issue at some point in the year, that's how it works. But the thing is, how do you move on from it? These things should be put in the rear-view mirror and we should be looking forward.
"I'm hoping by doing this to put a stop to it, to say, listen, everybody, as a leader in this locker room, as a guy who has been around here for a long time, I'm hoping that by saying there is no issue and this is fine, that this could be our exclamation point. Let's move on with this offseason, to training, to getting ready. I don't think there's a reason to look back anymore.
"That's what I'm hoping to just say: Done."
Wide receiver Steve Breaston, who played at Woodland Hills High School, visited the Steelers Thursday and took a physical. He became a free agent when Kansas City released him Feb. 19. There was no word on whether negotiations have begun to try to sign him. ... With Roethlisberger, Timmons and Brown's restructured contracts, the Steelers should be close to the $14 million they needed to erase from their salary cap by March 12 to be in compliance with the league. ... The Steelers were the only team to claim quarterback John Wilson, 27, off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars and he was awarded to them Thursday.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.