Ben Roethlisberger has been quiet throughout the offseason, despite a pretty public divorce between the Steelers and Antonio Brown in which the star receiver said comments by the quarterback led to Brown wanting out of Pittsburgh.
But with the Steelers set to open Phase 3 of their OTAs Tuesday, Roethlisberger spoke with KDKA-TV's Bob Pompeani and expressed regret over everything that happened.
"I took some heat and deservedly so for some of the comments on that show and especially towards him," Roethlisberger said, referring to comments made on his weekly radio show on KDKA-FM. "I genuinely feel bad about that and I'm sorry. Did I go too far after that Denver game? Probably."
Roethlisberger called out Brown specifically after a loss in Denver in which the quarterback was intercepted by a defensive linemen on his final pass of the game while throwing into the end zone for Brown.
Roethlisberger said on his radio show Brown needed to flatten out his route instead of rounding it and allowing the trailing corner to undercut him. That part was true. But the fact Roethlisberger's pass was intercepted by nose tackle Shelby Harris was not lost on Brown, even though he took the high road at the time when asked about the quarterback's comments that week.
"I've got big shoulders. I can take it," Brown said that week. "Constructive criticism is only for you to get better. It's not personal."
He changed his tune, however, after skipping out on the team's regular season finale and then asking for a trade.
"All year, the dude called me out,” Brown said of Roethlisberger while a guest on HBO's "The Shop." "We lose a game, he’s like, ‘Damn, AB should have run a better route.’
"That’s the type of guy he is. He feels like he’s the owner. Bro, you threw this (expletive) to the D-line. How the (expletive) am I going to run a better route? You need to give me a better ball."
Roethlisberger told Pompeani he tried to apologize, but it was too late.
"That's the thing about media and social media," Roethlisberger said. "As soon as you say 'sorry,' it only goes so far. You can't take it back. And I wish I could because if that's what ruined our friendship and relationship, I'm truly, genuinely sorry about that."
The Steelers wound up trading Brown to the Raiders for 2019 draft picks in the third and fifth round.
Full transcript from Roethlisberger's talk with Pompeani:
On his long silence: "In the offseason, I like to just be with family and be away and stay away from the craziness, because the media is my life during football season. When I can get a break from it, I try to get a break from it."
What happened to WiFi? "You're right. AB made me who I am. He was the greatest wide receiver I'd ever played with. And the things that he did in this league and that we did together are amongst the best of all time. You're right, there [were] some great things and then all of a sudden it just kind of, it disappeared, and I'm not really sure where it went. We always worked through it. We always came out the other side smiling and hugged it out and enjoyed it and moved on. This kind of, I really don't know..."
On public criticism of Brown: "It's a fine line to walk sometimes of giving information out, giving kind of some cool things for the fans to be a part of and maybe saying too much. And I know that I took some heat, and deservedly so, for some of the comments that I've made on that show, especially towards him. And I genuinely feel bad about that and I'm sorry. Did I go too far after that Denver game? Probably.
"I can see where that comment was perceived to be negative toward AB. But it wasn't meant that was. It was more, just like everything during the season, it's a compliment to AB because he's doubled every single play. That's why it's so ... it's still so amazing he was able to do it through all the adversity of double and triple teams. It was more meant that I should've gone to JuJu because he was single-covered, and I regretted it. That's the thing about media and social media and things like that is, as soon as you say it, 'sorry' only goes so far, and you can't take it back. And I wish I could, because if that's what ruined our friendship and our relationship, then I truly am genuinely sorry about that."
On 'not the leader' comments: "They were hurtful. And it was hurtful to myself. It was hurtful to my family. I always want to get better. I always strive to be the best that I can be. And last year we weren't good enough. We lost six games. We didn't make the playoffs, and so I need to, as a leader of that football team, because leadership ultimately is about winning football games — and I didn't do a good enough job of being a leader because we didn't make the playoffs. There's more than one leader in that locker room, and we're lucky to have them. It's Ramon Foster, it's Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, just to name a few."
Has he reached out to Brown? "I left him some messages, called him. I haven't heard back, but I'm sure he's getting busy with his season, getting ready as I am with the guys that we have here. But I really am looking forward to reconnecting with him, talking, because like I said, he's a good friend of mine. I still call him a good friend, and I hope that we can reconnect and I hope that our friendship can continue to grow."
It doesn't surprise me Roethlisberger took the high road on this and admitted he was wrong. But he took a ton of heat on this.
And he wasn't always wrong in what he said, probably just the forum in which he said it. Those are things that should have been said privately first, if at all.
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