It’s a saying that parents often repeat to children over and over and over again in an effort to teach them the difference between right and wrong: Do what I say, not what I do. When it comes to figuring out Ben Roethlisberger, it seems to be more about: Don’t listen to what he says, pay attention to what he does.
At least that seems to be Mike Tomlin’s procedure, especially after a difficult defeat.
Following that 30-9 loss to Jacksonville last Sunday at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger’s session with the media was interpreted in some circles as being fatalistic. He had thrown five interceptions for the first time in his career, and two of those had been returned for touchdowns in a performance that was Tommy Maddox-esque, and Roethlisberger was placing the blame for the outcome squarely on his own shoulders.
At one point during the postgame interrogatives, when Roethlisberger, now 35 and in his 14th NFL season, was asked if he was doing anything differently, he replied, "I don't think so, but maybe I am. Maybe I don't have it anymore. I'm not playing well enough."
Two questions later, Roethlisberger seemed to deliver a different message when he was asked whether he was doubting himself. He said, "Nope. If anybody in this room ever has that doubt, they probably aren't here. You know what I'm saying? Professional athletes shouldn't have doubt."
It was to be expected that the one quote that grew legs was Roethlisberger saying, “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” and so it figured that Tomlin would be asked about that at his news conference today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“Let me say this about Ben,” Tomlin began. “Ben is a big-time competitor, an emotional guy who has seen a lot in this business. He’s not afraid to tell you guys the truth in terms of how he’s feeling in particular moments. Sometimes that might be things that are somewhat alarming to you guys, because there are a lot of emotions at play when these guys pour themselves into competition.
“So he might say something after the game that might allow you to overreact to it. The bottom line is I’ve known Ben for 11 years, I know the competitor he is, I know his level of confidence. What he says after a five-interception performance, moments after a five-interception performance, probably isn’t reflective of who he is and how he feels. It wasn’t reflective of who he is and how he felt when he walked in here yesterday. He looked like a guy who’s ready to gun-sling and get back at it. That’s more in line with the guy I know and what I anticipate from him, and that’s why I take some of those comments with a grain of salt and don’t react the way some of you guys react when you hear his comments.
“Last year after a very disappointing playoff exit, he talked about retirement. You guys ran to the moon and back with that. Here we sit today, and he’s our quarterback.”
Tomlin also was asked to assess the in-game judgment Roethlisberger showed in throwing those five interceptions against the Jaguars.
“It could’ve been better, but it probably wasn’t as catastrophic as his statistics (indicate),” said Tomlin. “Things happen. Protection of the football is an 11-man job, just as the protection of our quarterback is an 11-man job. His first interception was a great play by Jalen Ramsey, but we had pressure up the middle and Ben couldn’t step into it. The next pick was a pick-six, and that ball was batted by a defensive lineman. None of that has to do with his judgment, but it does have to do with interceptions being thrown. Such is life in this business when you’re playing his position, and he understands that as well as I do.”