Madden: Leaving might be Ben's best bet
By Mark Madden Times Sports Correspondent
Ben Roethlisberger’s reported request to leave the Steelers isn’t necessarily what it seems.
Roethlisberger might really want to leave. Or he might want offensive coordinator Todd Haley fired. Roethlisberger might want the franchise to finally enter the new millennium in terms of offensive emphasis. He might want put in a position to succeed.
That’s just not currently happening with the Steelers.
Haley shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for the mess that is the Steelers’ offense. The platoon is flawed in the assembly. The just-rebuilt offensive line stinks, and there is no true No. 1 receiver.
Philosophically and strategically, it’s hard to believe this is the offense Haley wants. Consider his previous work. But Haley wanted a job, and the only way to get this one was to adhere to Art Rooney II’s antiquated vision. Art II wants to replicate the traditional “Steeler way,” pounding the run to set up the pass.
That game doesn’t exist anymore. Watch a typical NFL contest. It often looks like a different sport than the Steelers play.
The run hasn’t disappeared and isn’t insignificant. But, league-wide, it’s clearly secondary. The Steelers’ approach is misuse of a quarterback who, utilized properly, would be and has been among the NFL’s best. The Steelers try to win the game with balance, then turn to Roethlisberger to bail them out.
Consider the Steelers’ effective use of the no-huddle, with Ben calling the plays. It’s barely done until the Steelers trail. Desperation shouldn’t be the only trigger for your best tactic.
But the Steelers don’t want to take the game out of the coaches’ hands. The Steelers may be the only franchise in sports where the coaches’ egos supersede how to best use the star.
It seems like the Steelers organization has never trusted or liked Roethlisberger since the 2010 rape allegations in Georgia. It seems like he’s always being minimized, or put in his place. Even if that’s not true, here’s betting Roethlisberger feels that way.
Is there any denying that the Steelers’ dishonest “retiring” of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians following the 2011 season – just one year removed from a Steelers’ Super Bowl appearance – was a disastrous move on so many levels?
The result: An offensive downgrade caused largely by turning away from Roethlisberger as the primary weapon – making him “dink and dunk.” Perhaps worse, running off Roethlisberger’s friend and mentor further fractured the relationship between franchise and quarterback.
And it made going to Arizona – where Arians is head coach and Larry Fitzgerald a legit No. 1 receiver – a logical destination.
Trading Roethlisberger might actually be best for the Steelers. Roethlisberger is 31. This should be his prime, but he’s taken such a physical beating. The Steelers are in a deep hole. They might not contend again, or even be average, anytime soon.
Tricky cap implications aside – the Steelers absorb over $11 million in dead money if they deal their QB - Roethlisberger could fetch great return. That could be Roethlisberger’s biggest value to the Steelers given the lack of talent on the current roster.
If Roethlisberger is trying to stage a power play, he might not win. The Steelers value the logo more than any player, and they don’t seem to like Roethlisberger very much.
The changes Roethlisberger likely wants would be best for the Steelers. If he doesn’t get them, there’s no point staying.
The Steelers are a lousy team. That’s not Roethlisberger’s fault. Management thought it had a playoff team at season’s start. Anyone with a brain disagreed with that. Look at the proof.
Yinzer Nation tends to automatically side with the Steelers. But ask yourself who, of these choices, has done his job best: Art II as president, Mike Tomlin as head coach, Haley as offensive coordinator, or Roethlisberger as quarterback?
My choice is Roethlisberger. By default. And it’s not even close. Art II and Haley never played a down of football between them. Tomlin’s arrogance has overwhelmed his ability. The Steelers are a mess, and it’s not the quarterback’s fault.
Don’t bluff, Ben. Don’t bargain. Get out.