Retired Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger laments his former team's struggles and perceives a decline in the locker room leadership and hard-nosed mentality that defined Pittsburgh football during his career. (Erik Drost / Wikimedia)

Big Ben: Has the Steelers’ Tough Tradition Gone Soft?

In a recent episode of his podcast “Footbahlin with Ben Roethlisberger,” former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shared his dismay over the current state of his former team.

Reacting to the Steelers’ dismal 21-18 loss last week to the lowly New England Patriots, Roethlisberger said, “Maybe the tradition of the Pittsburgh Steelers is done.”

He criticized head coach Mike Tomlin’s timeout management late in the game, saying, “You can’t afford in the second half of games to burn silly timeouts and to not have them late in the game. To me, that’s bad coaching.”

Roethlisberger, who spent nearly two decades with Pittsburgh, is unaccustomed to seeing the once-proud franchise struggle so consistently.

While the defense has kept the 7-6 Steelers in playoff contention, the offense has been inconsistent. Pittsburgh did not make the postseason last year in its first season without Roethlisberger at quarterback.

“Who is grabbing someone by the face mask and saying, ‘That’s not what we do’? Is that happening? Yes, you have guys on defense doing it, but you need guys on other sides of the ball doing it,” he said.

He longed for the days when veterans like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward set the tone in the locker room.

“It just feels like that’s something that’s been lost on this team,” Roethlisberger said, later adding, “I’ve felt that certain guys on the team aren’t in it for the team, they’re in it for themselves.”

Roethlisberger, who won two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, wonders who is carrying on the team’s traditionally tough brand of football.

“I understand the further you get away from that, the harder it is unless it’s being passed down and carried the right way,” he said.