This is all Ben’s fault. If he hadn’t spent two consecutive offseasons dealing with off-field silliness (the last of which will cost him four games to start the 2010 season), we wouldn’t have to endure the stupidity that has ensued.
It began earlier this week when Mike Tomlin, appearing on Sirius radio, offered this when asked if Roethlisberger would be guaranteed his job when he returned from suspension: “I’m going to dodge that one and not artfully. I’m not going to back myself in a corner.”
Any normal human half-paying attention to football would take that to mean, “Yes, it’s Ben’s job when he gets back but I’m going to be coy about it in the meantime.” Fine. That’s Tomlin’s right. Just like it was his right not to name a starter during preseason (right up till the point when the local media spilled the beans on Dennis Dixon taking first-team reps Wednesday).
Subterfuge is a part of coaching. It has been forever. “Coach speak” is now commonplace in sports for a reason: because coaches use a lot of words without really saying anything. They also refuse to answer what should otherwise be straightforward questions because, well, they don’t have to.
That shouldn’t be a signal for the media to investigate further. At least not without taking 20 seconds to stop and think about it first. Yet here we are, three days from the Steelers opener, and two days after the national media decided that this was somehow a story worth pursuing.
Gretz hit the lowlights yesterday. And I was all set to move on until somebody (Steeler Bill — I’m naming names!) pointed out that ESPN 1250′s Chris Mack was pretty worked up by the fans’ reaction to the national media’s reaction to Tomlin’s comments. He tweeted this yesterday:
“Why is it everything that could somehow be interpreted as ‘anti-Ben’ is a media contrivance? Tomlin was asked to guarantee his job. He didn’t.”
Because there are 15 other stories more interesting than this. Why are fans having to tell the media that, come Week 6 and barring a moped mishap or a drunken night out with Skippy Reed, Ben’s the starting quarterback? I said it in July and it still holds: Any combination of Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich or Charlie Batch could throw for 500 yards, five TDs, no picks and have a perfect passer rating for four straight weeks, and when the Steelers play the Browns, Roethlisberger will be under center. Why even bring it up? Why not find better uses of your time, and better ways to serve your audience?
It’s one thing to question whether Tom Brady would keep his job after suffering a devastating knee injury and watching Matt Cassel go 11-5 during the ’08 season. It’s something else entirely to take Tomlin’s non-answer, manufacture some bullshit scenario, and say you’re doing your job. Because you’re not. You’re just being lazy.
Put it this way: if you’re the Steelers and you have questions about your franchise quarterback, do you address it in the offseason, or wait till after he’s suspended and make a decision a quarter of the way into the regular season? Because, you know, the front office was well aware of Ben’s off-field troubles this spring and they chose to keep him in Pittsburgh. They also signed him to a $100-million deal during the 2009 offseason. Yet despite all that, Tomlin refusing to answer a question on a radio show raises concerns about it? Really? There’s more, of course.
“There’s no room for interpretation there. Quit blaming the media for the cluster%$*! the QB situation has become.”
Wait, what? Where’s the clusterfuck? Because I missed that. And I’m not blaming all media, just the people dumb enough to think this is news. Bouchette made it clear that there’s nothing to misinterpret, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think there’s a “QB situation” outside of “It’s Ben’s job when he gets back. Obviously.”
We then went back and forth with Mack over Twitter:
@Steelers_Lounge so we all know Ben’s gonna start wk6, but Tomlin won’t say so… seems like an unneccesary “dodge” & more QB mismanagement
@cmack1250 Wait. What’s the mismanagement here? That he’s not telling the media what he plans to do five weeks from now?
@Steelers_Lounge yes, I’m suffering from jilted media syndrome. … not as much about what he tells media, more about what message he’s leaving out there for fans & players: Indecisiveness
@cmack1250 The fans feelings shouldn’t matter (and I say that as a fan). The players job is to play.
@Steelers_Lounge yes, 99.9% chance he will; so how does it effect Tomlin – adversely or not – to simply say so? poor choice of ‘non-words’
@cmack1250 This is all manufactured controversy. Because there is none. Ben will be under center in Week 6 against Cleve, as he should be.
And that’s where we left it.
I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh for seven years so I don’t listen to local radio. But Mack seems like a nice, reasonable guy. It’s just that I have no idea what he’s talking about. Whatever, here’s to hoping Tomlin provides only direct, unambiguous answers when queried in the future. Because, clearly, some folks struggle with nuanced responses to blindingly obvious questions.