After his comments about players having a “me-first attitude” led to a rebuttal from Pittsburgh Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward, retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tried to clarify his remarks Thursday in a radio interview.
Speaking with the WDVE-FM morning show team, Roethlisberger said he was referring to NFL players in general and not Steelers players in particular when he said priorities have changed since he first entered the league in 2004.
“I probably should have been more detailed and specific in what I said,” said Roethlisberger, who retired in January following an 18-year career that included two Super Bowl championships and three appearances.
“It’s not the majority of guys that feel that way. I was asked what the difference in the league is now from when I first got in, even when Cam first got in (2011), the mentality of the players, the toughness. To me, it was a very broadstroke comment.”
Heyward, though, took exception and said on his “Not Just Football” podcast that he disagreed with Roethlisberger’s comments.
“You can’t just say it’s a me-type attitude right now,” Heyward said. “Everybody is out to be a Super Bowl winner, and everybody is out to make money and one day be an MVP. But when it all comes together, we care about one thing, this logo right here. When we put that jersey on, we understand we are very fortunate to do it. We just have to continue to live through that.
“I think Ben was a little out on that one.”
• Cameron Heyward defends Steelers teammates after Ben Roethlisberger’s me-type attitude comments
Roethlisberger appeared to be caught off guard by Heyward’s criticism, particularly since he said he has had that exact discussion with the 33-year-old defensive end.
“Cam and I have sat down many times over the years and had the same conversation,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not like it’s new to Cam. I get Cam supporting his teammates. I wasn’t trying to bash anybody specifically. I was making a broadstroke opinion.”
“Cam is entitled to be upset,” Roethlisberger added. “(But) he and I have had conversations. I know he knows what I’m talking about. I agree with Cam and I should have been more clear. The majority of guys on that team are very team-first guys.”
Roethlisberger also said he and Heyward have discussed toughness and how players aren’t as tough as they were a decade or two ago because of rules changes designed to protect players from injury.
“There are no more two-a-days,” he said. “They are trying to make the game safer, I get it. I think it’s smart. I just think the difference is from when I first came in until now is you see guys spending much more time in the training room. Where guys would tape it up and go, guys still do that to a certain extent, but it’s differences in the game.”
Roethlisberger didn’t think his upbringing would allow him to be a “me-first” type of player if he were part of the current generation of football players.
“I think my dad would probably still smack me if I tried to do some of that stuff,” he said. “It’s more than football. It’s the society we’re in right now, the social media.”
Other items discussed in the 17-minute interview:
• Roethlisberger said he recently exchanged texts with wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who is seeking a new contract and is not participating in team portions of practice, much like T.J. Watt did last year.
“He kind of filled me in a little bit on stuff. I told him you are an unbelievable football player, and I know it can be frustrating at times,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t know if they are going to get something done, are trying to get something done. I know he probably wants something and I think he deserves a contract. He’s played really well, and he’s one of — if not the best — players on that offense. As this season goes on, I hope he’s out there playing.”
• Roethlisberger professed his affection for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was criticized during his five seasons with the Steelers for the amount of social media content he generated
“I love that guy,” he said. “Great teammate, a guy who would do anything for his team, anything for the city, the Steelers. He played through so much injury, so much pain. I loved him. I know there are people who don’t know what to think and don’t like the other stuff he did, but when it came to the team. … He did do a lot of stuff off the field, but when it came time for football it did not get in the way. He gave every single ounce of his body, his heart and his soul to us, so I never, ever had a problem with JuJu — ever.”
• Roethlisberger plans to attend games at Acrisure Stadium this year with his family.
“My boys are going to want to go, so I’m sure I’m going to games.”
• Roethlisberger has shied away from having social media accounts, but he is considering opening an Instagram account in order to share family activities.
“Just for all the stuff we do, but I don’t know,” he’ll said. “I’ll get blasted for it somehow.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .