AFC North: NFL Network

Trying to make sense of Big Ben reports

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
2:30
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Folks at Pittsburgh Steelers headquarters remain flabbergasted about the ongoing Ben Roethlisberger drama, created by reports that the veteran quarterback, Steelers president Art Rooney II and coach Mike Tomlin have all publicly refuted in some form or fashion.

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger went on WDVE-FM Friday morning -- contacting the show Thursday night after the NFL Network reported that he may want out of Pittsburgh after this season and that the Steelers are unhappy with his game preparation -- and offered yet another vehement denial that his long-term commitment to the franchise is wavering.

Roethlisberger’s future was not a hot topic in the Steelers’ locker room following the team’s final practice of the week. Free safety Ryan Clark shrugged it off and said such matters become an issue when a team is not winning.

“We roll off seven straight [wins], get to the playoff then it won’t matter,” said Clark, who is a team captain along with Roethlisberger and defensive end Brett Keisel. “But when you’re not winning, there seems to be a reason why you would want out. Right now it’s just rumors. As long as [Roethlisberger] is playing hard for us on Sunday, as long as he’s doing what it takes for us to go out here and win games, nobody cares.”

LaMarr Woodley agreed.

“I haven’t followed it, but it’s definitely not a distraction at all,” the Steelers outside linebacker said. “We’ve still got a lot of football left, and all I’m focused on is what’s going on the field this year.”

My take: Someone believable is talking, whether it’s inside the Steelers organization -- or more likely the locker room -- or someone who was recently with the team. The NFL Network would have backed off the story, not added another layer to it Thursday night, if that weren’t the case.

But people I have talked to at team headquarters are genuinely shocked that this is still a story and dismissive about whether it will distract the Steelers -- at least for now.

Unless there is a well-choreographed acting job being pulled off at all levels of the Steelers’ organization, Roethlisberger isn’t going anywhere.

Roethlisberger still fuming over report

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
12:06
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Incredulous and angry, Ben Roethlisberger again assailed an NFL Network report that he may ask the Pittsburgh Steelers to explore trading him after the season because of his frustration over the direction of the franchise.

“It’s stinkin upsetting. It fires me up because it’s like where do you make this stuff up. It’s unbelievable,” Roehtlisberger said Tuesday on 93.7 The Fan during his weekly radio show. “I love putting that jersey on every week and it’s the only one I could ever see myself in. That helmet, there’s something special about that logo and putting those colors on.

Roethlisberger
"I’ve said from day one I want to play for one organization and there’s not one organization in the world that I would rather play for than this one. I look at the Rooneys like they’re family. We have never asked, are not going to ask (for a trade). This is home and this is family and that’s why I’m so upset this even got brought to my attention at the end of the (Bills) game.”

The Steelers and Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner, issued denials of the report before and during Pittsburgh’s 23-10 win against the Bills. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport stood by his report on two Pittsburgh radio stations, including The Fan, on Monday.

Roethlisberger didn’t just take issue with the report that he may want out of Pittsburgh. He also refuted the part of the report that contends he is unhappy with the Steelers’ offensive coaches -- and not just coordinator Todd Haley.

Roethlisberger said when quarterback coach Randy Fichtner has been mentioned in the past as a candidate for college coaching jobs that he all but begged Fichtner to stay with the Steelers.

“Randy’s a great guy,” Roethlisberger said. “I would never want another quarterback coach. I enjoy our coaches.”

That, said Roethlisberger, includes Haley, the oft-criticized coordinator whose relationship with Roethlisberger has been a source of fan intrigue since he joined the Steelers in February 2012.

“Our relationship has grown so much and I’m not just saying that to appease the media and the fans,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s becoming a really good relationship and I’m enjoying how it’s growing every week and I’m looking forward to it continuing to grow. I feel like I’m getting better and we’re getting better.”

Roethlisberger said he is frustrated that the 3-6 Steelers haven’t won more this season, but added he is fully vested in turning the team into a perennial Super Bowl contender again.

“I hate when people say you’re rebuilding because to me that’s a slap in the face to the people that are out there playing,” Roethlisberger said. “No one wants to win more than I do, I promise you that, at everything. That’s who I am. It pains me to lose at anything. That’s why I’m going to do everything I can to turn it around and win football games. Just because we lose football games I’m not going to jump ship and quit.”

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Former Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco provided great news for the Cincinnati Bengals and not-so-great news for the rest of the AFC North division.

In his first public comments this offseason, Ochocinco said in an interview with the NFL Network Tuesday night that he was humbled by last year and is now motivated to have a big season in 2009. Ochocinco looked sharp doing boxing drills and running routes in Los Angeles and intends to join the team during mandatory minicamp June 18-20.

"Words cannot describe the type of shape I'm in right now," Ochocinco told the NFL Network. "Words cannot describe the type of season I'm going to have. I'm telling you ahead of time."

A motivated Ochocinco is a scary Ochocinco.

When at his best, Ochocinco was a nightmare to cover in the AFC North. He recorded five straight seasons of 1,200 yards or more despite a majority of coverages being geared to stop him.

Ochocinco, 31, admitted in his interview with the NFL Network Tuesday that he lost some of that hunger. Last year he caught just 53 passes for 540 yards as Cincinnati finished 4-11-1. But the Bengals made several good moves this offseason and will be even more optimistic if Ochocinco can return to his old form.

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