Inside Conditions: Ben Roethlisberger, the irreplaceable hostage-taker

by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier

There are mountains of verbiage that must be scaled by journalists and fans alike that deal with sports reporting and the ingestion of sports information on a minute-by-minute basis. It is a fact that in these days of podcasts, blogs, webinars, or seminars, the only clear objectives of those that clamor, beg and plead for likes on “space-book” “insta-enema” and “hickory dickory doc” is for the content that they spew, spit and produce to go viral at all costs. This allows those sites to become temporary internet “czars” equipped with imaginary kingdoms, jaded crowns and thrones with nails as cushions.

Let us talk about the current position of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, who is thought by many Pittsburgh writers and pundits as being almost “irreplaceable.” As the years have progressed the time has now passed when the once-proud presence of Roethlisberger could elicit fear from opposing defenses—standing tall in the pocket waiting for a receiver to break free while “Big Ben” improvised, resulting in a great play.

Time and age has a cruel and unforgiving way of slowing down those with cheetah-like speed and “cobra-esque” reflexes to the speed of a tortoise and the reflexes of a sloth. During the beginning of a certain Hall-of-Fame career, Roethlisberger had a statuesque presence and was feared by many opposing defensive coordinators and players alike because of his uncanny ability to stand proud and tall in the pocket, surveying the gridiron during battle as he delivered perfect strikes to receivers as he was under stress and duress in the pocket. He once had an uncanny ability to escape danger; nowadays it oftentimes appears that he runs headfirst into calamity. He has now been reduced to just being a statue. Presently, there are times when Roethlisberger attempts to navigate and maneuver in and around the pocket and the line of scrimmage but is unsuccessful because of a lack of mobility. It often appears as if molasses or some other Fred Biletnikoff stick-um like substance has been covertly been applied to the bottom of his cleats.

Ben’s on-the-field shortcomings have created a contractual dilemma for the Steelers. However, Roethlisberger and his agent, Ryan Tollner, seem to be approaching what would normally be a negative contractual scenario brimming with confidence. Why? Could it be because they have adopted the methods of illegal Las Vegas card-counters? In the gambling world, poker players compete against the value created by other poker players as opposed to the game of Blackjack, where a player competes against the house. Just as in Vegas, most professional sports leagues are sort of OK as long as you compete against the value of other players and as long as you don’t take…house money.

Roethlisberger and Tollner will win as long as they compare Ben’s value against the value of his teammates, just as the game of poker does. He does not dare mimic the game of Blackjack and compare his value with the value of the house because as every gambler worth his salt knows, the house can perpetually play because eventually the house is going to come out on top unless the gambler takes the house hostage.

Since Roethlisberger was inserted into the Steelers starting lineup early in the third quarter in the second game of his rookie season in 2004 and continuing to the present, almost everything has been done to accommodate and pacify “Big” Ben in order to help him attain success.

During his entire career, many flimsy and even occasionally, totally fabricated excuses have covered his blind side when he has been non or less productive. How many times have you heard these smokescreens? “The offensive line did not block well enough.” “The receiver ran the wrong route.” “The running game was ineffective.” “The offensive coordinator called a crappy game.” “The receiver didn’t lay out for the ball.”

Very seldom especially in the beginning of his career did you hear these sorts of analysis: “He held onto the ball too long.” “He underthrew or overthrew the ball.” “He misread the defensive coverage.” “He should have taken the sack as opposed to throwing a pick.” “The team would be in field goal range but instead of throwing the ball away he took a sack putting the team out of field goal range.” I could go on and on but I’m sure you get my drift.

Since his career began, Ben Roethlisberger has been coddled and placated for the sake of harmonizing his career. He must now coddle and placate the needs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to facilitate “team” harmony considering the sacrifices that the franchise has made for him even in light of his declining skill set. Remember Antonio Brown, the former Steelers wide receiver that Roethlisberger vilified? Brown just won a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, catching a pass from a quarterback five years older and more talented than Ben Roethlisberger. Oh, what’s his name? Tom Brady.

It now has to be about the Pittsburgh Steelers as a team and not Ben Roethlisberger as one individual, because if it isn’t, rest assured that the Steelers will remain flirtatious with winning but will not maintain their record of excellence.


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