On my radio show yesterday, we didn’t talk about Dennis Dixon. We didn’t talk about the Steelers’ loss at Baltimore, or their playoff chances. We didn’t talk about the defense’s weekly fourth-quarter collapse. We didn’t talk about Pitt-West Virginia, Tiger Woods or Sidney Crosby’s hat trick.
We talked about Hines Ward. That’s Ward’s doing, not mine.
Ward did a phone interview on SportsCenter yesterday. He admitted being frustrated by the situation he created, but didn’t apologize.
Ward should. But here’s betting he won’t, unless the Steelers force him.
You simply can’t justify or excuse Ward’s nationally-televised tirade about Ben Roethlisberger not playing hurt. Ward went so far over the line that he might actually be in danger of alienating much of his considerable fan base in Pittsburgh. He questioned a teammate’s courage and toughness. I still can’t believe it.
The Steelers are trying to downplay this. They can’t.
The Steelers hope this will go away. It won’t.
Roethlisberger will probably do his best to dilute the situation. He can’t. And would you blame him if he refused to play on the same team as Ward beyond this season? He won’t. But what if he did? What would happen?
Ward was especially out of order when he said the locker room was split 50-50 over whether or not Ben should play. If YOU want to say YOU think Roethlisberger should play, OK. But don’t implicate the whole team, especially in a fashion that makes Ben wonder about every teammate.
What Ward did was an act of sabotage that can’t help but hurt the Steelers. Not everybody has a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and a camera crew on call 24/7. If it’s possible to take football too serious, Ward does.
This isn’t debatable. Ward is in the wrong. And if Mike Tomlin doesn’t rectify the situation by holding Ward accountable, Roethlisberger may hold it against Tomlin. This situation has frightening long-term implications.
Ward’s insatiable lust for self-promotion may wreck the Steelers.
If you don’t think Ward’s statements did any damage to Roethlisberger, know this: I got over three dozen e-mails yesterday that called Ben gutless and said he should suck it up and earn his millions, or obscenities to that effect. There’s always been a vocal anti-Ben minority. Ward’s reckless, feckless statements have emboldened these cretins. Ward says the team is divided. Now his ill-advised diatribe may divide the town.
You don’t do that to a teammate. You don’t heap aggravation on a teammate. Ward did, and doesn’t seem to regret it.
The excuse that Ward spoke out of turn because he wasn’t aware of the specifics of Ben’s situation or all the dangers playing with a concussion can pose is laughable. Why does Ward need to be in the loop on everything? Can’t he just be a good teammate because it’s the right thing to do?
Ward not only didn’t question Ryan Clark not playing in Denver, he actually said Clark SHOULD sit. Why would Ward support Clark, but not Roethlisberger when the situations were virtually identical?