ATLANTA — Hines Ward won Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is recognized as one of the key leaders on those championship teams.
The Steelers didn’t even make the playoffs this year, and Ward thinks it’s because the leadership has gone away.
In pointed comments to The Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast with Charles Robinson and Terez Paylor, Ward said he’s not happy with the drama in Pittsburgh. He’s not happy to hear what has become of the culture there and singled out coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Considering Ward played for Tomlin and with Roethlisberger and was a part of championship teams with each of them, the criticism means a little more.
“To me it all starts with the head coach Mike Tomlin,” Ward told The Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast from Super Bowl radio row. “When you give some leniency with players based on whatever, you’re only fining them — a player can only do what you allow them to do.”
That’s in regard to Antonio Brown, whose antics in Week 17 led to him being benched for the season finale.
“The circus and the culture that has been provided now, that’s not the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Ward said. “We’re talking more about the Steelers off the field than on the field. That’s very unusual. We have to have some rules and regulation from Mike Tomlin to delegate down to the players knowing not one player isn’t bigger than the team.”
Ward also had comments about Brown, who he said is being paid “tons of dollars not just for your performance on the field but your leadership within the locker room.” But he said the Steelers’ issues are not just about Brown, even though most of the attention has been on him.
Ward also had criticism for Roethlisberger, his quarterback for eight seasons in Pittsburgh.
“For Pittsburgh, for all the talent they have, they beat the Patriots in the regular season, to miss the playoffs? That’s a reflection of the head coach and the players,” Ward said. “It’s not just all about AB’s shenanigans. Ben Roethlisberger, when you have a radio show, you can’t critique players in the open. We had one motto when I was playing, it was, ‘Keep my name out your mouth in the media.’ Whatever you say to the media, you can talk to me as a grown man.”
Ward was referencing Roethlisberger calling out teammates, including Brown, on the radio this past season. He said that’s a reflection of the leadership with the team.
“The problem is, who is the player who is policing it?” Ward told The Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast. “If you look at Ben Roethlsberger and you have that ‘C’ on your chest and you’re calling people out in the media? Well, what are the younger guys going to do? Call people out.
“Think about it. Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up to camp. What’s the first thing all the offensive linemen did? Talked about his money. Remember my motto: Keep my name out your mouth when it comes to media. They could have easily said, ‘Hey, he’s isn’t here, it’s a business decision, we’re going to move on.’ That’s all they had to say. But when you start talking about my money, you’re taking personal shots at me.”
Ward voiced a complaint that has been heard often from Steelers fans: The team has had great talent, but hasn’t made it to the Super Bowl with this core.
“Talent wise, we have way more talent than the Patriots,” Ward told Robinson and Paylor. “But it’s the way Coach [Bill] Belichick and the New England Patriots run their organization. It’s not the same for the Pittsburgh Steelers right now.
“It starts with the coach, it starts with Ben Roethlisberger, you’re the captain.”
These are things that have been said regarding the Steelers, and some go back to before this past season. But to come from Ward, one of the most popular players in team history, should really sting.
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