Ben Roethlisberger criticizes Mike Tomlin’s ‘bad coaching’ in Steelers’ loss to Patriots

Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin enjoyed a fruitful 15-year partnership with the Steelers, but evidently that isn’t enough to shield the veteran coach from criticism from his former quarterback.

Roethlisberger spoke Monday about the Steelers’ disappointing loss to the Patriots in an episode of his “Footbahlin with Ben Roethlisberger.” He noted many of Pittsburgh’s shortcomings in that upset loss and seemed to take aim at the team’s recent struggles, lack of discipline and overall attitude throughout the season.

“Maybe the tradition of the Pittsburgh Steelers is done,” Roethlisberger said.

This isn’t the first time that Roethlisberger has openly criticized his former team. He referred to some of the team’s players as “coddled” last season in comments that drew the ire of defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.

That said, this is one of the first times that Roethlisberger has called out Tomlin. These comments also come as Tomlin is facing pressure coming off back-to-back losses against 2-10 teams that have put Pittsburgh’s once solid-looking playoff chances in a precarious situation.

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What did Ben Roethlisberger say about Mike Tomlin?

Roethlisberger didn’t call out Tomlin by name while dissecting the Steelers’ loss to the Patriots, but he was critical of the team’s coaching in the contest.

Notably, Roethlisberger took issue with the careless nature in which Tomlin and Co. burned their timeouts throughout the second half.

“You can’t afford in the second half of games to burn silly timeouts and to not have them late in the game,” Roethlisberger said. “To me, that’s bad coaching.”

The 41-year-old went on to explain why those burned timeouts mattered. Saving them for the final drive would have helped give Mitch Trubisky a much better chance to mount a potential game-tying drive. 

“There’s some feel you have to have in those situations because timeouts can be so valuable, as we saw in this game,” he explained. “If we have one more timeout there, we get a completion, we can work the middle of the field, and all you got to do is give Boz [Chris Boswell] a 60-yard [field-goal] chance. Give him a chance, and he’ll tie the game. I like my chances in overtime because they scored all their points early, and the momentum had shifted.”

Roethlisberger has a point. The Steelers weren’t able to work the middle of the field as much on their penultimate drive with just two minutes remaining in regulation. And at the end of the game, Trubisky was able to hit Diontae Johnson and Allen Robinson for consecutive big plays, but the Steelers ran out of time to try any sort of a Hail Mary or last-second field goal to send it to overtime.

Thus, it’s easy to understand why Roethlisberger is a bit frustrated. It’s uncharacteristic of the Steelers to make mistakes like that and cost themselves chances to win games, even if it is in an ugly fashion.

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Ben Roethlisberger: Some Steelers ‘aren’t in it for the team’

Roethlisberger believes that the team’s coaching isn’t the only thing holding it back. He also acknowledged that the attitude various players are demonstrating is out of line with how his Steelers teams operated, especially on offense.

“Who is grabbing someone by the face mask and saying, ‘That’s not what we do’?” Roethlisberger posited when discussing the effort put forth by various members of the Steelers. “Is that happening? Yes, you have guys on defense doing it, but you need guys on other sides of the ball doing it. You need someone to stand up in that room, on offense, and be like, ‘Hey, this isn’t what it means to wear the black and gold.’”

The effort of George Pickens and Diontae Johnson has been questioned at times during the 2023 NFL season, and Pickens was particularly upset throughout the loss to the Patriots. He was visibly frustrated on the sideline and had a testy exchange with Tomlin at one point.

Roethlisberger didn’t single out any specific players, but he did point to the fact that some on the team seem more focused on their individual play than the team’s success.

“It just feels like that’s something that’s been lost on this team,” Roethlisberger said on the podcast. “I’ve felt that certain guys on the team aren’t in it for the team, they’re in it for themselves. Well, now some of the guys on the team are saying the same thing.”

It will be interesting to see how the Steelers respond to Roethlisberger’s comments. Perhaps Heyward will push back on them once again, but the team could simply take them in stride and try to prove Big Ben wrong as they try to get back on the right track for a postseason run.

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