Big Ben needs to assume more leadership

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
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Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time captain. He's led the Steelers to last-minute victories, and he's led them to the Super Bowl.

But the Steelers need more from him this season. They need him to be the leader.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Frank Victores/US PresswirePittsburgh's roster changes have left a leadership void that would be best filled by Ben Roethlisberger.
Getting under the salary cap meant cutting three captains: James Farrior on defense, Hines Ward on offense, and Arnaz Battle on special teams. The Steelers also said goodbye to veterans like Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke.

"I can't sit here and say, 'This is our leader,'" Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We're looking for that right now."

The Steelers need to look right at Roethlisberger. He has to be the unquestioned leader of the offense, and the face of the franchise. Just like there's no disputing the leader for the Patriots or the Broncos. That's Tom Brady's team. That's Peyton Manning's team. The Steelers now have to become Ben Roethlisberger's team.

Roethlisberger has been a leader on the field. He's a winner who has guided the Steelers to 80 regular-season victories in 113 games. He's helped Pittsburgh to 20 fourth-quarter comebacks. And he's done this at times while playing with broken bones and playing on one leg.

But there have been signs that Roethlisberger hasn't been the most popular player in the team's locker room.

After his second sexual assault allegation in less than a year, he wasn't voted to be a captain by his teammates in 2010. Some suggested this was an indication that he needed to earn back the trust of his teammates.

It also raised some eyebrows when the Steelers players surprisingly chose receiver-returner Antonio Brown over Roethlisberger as the team's Most Valuable Player last season.

Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II both agreed that leadership can't be forced upon a player.



"It can't be something where you just say, 'OK, you're the leader,'" Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The leader has to really be someone that the players buy into. I think we have quite a few good young players who are the kind of players who can be leaders on the team, and we still have veteran players who can play that role, too. But it's something that evolves, and it can't be artificial. It's got to be something that just develops as the chemistry of the team develops every year."

For most franchises, the quarterbacks are the natural leaders. But it hasn't been that way lately for the Steelers. The leadership role on offense has been passed from Jerome Bettis to Hines Ward.

With those players gone, Roethlisberger has to step up more than ever.

"He will be somebody that perhaps is looked to more now than in the past even, now that some of these other players have moved on," team president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Maybe that leadership role will grow as we move forward."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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