Ward’s commentary is usually not riveting. But last Sunday, he had quite a mouthful of juicy gossip about the Steelers, Arians, and Roethlisberger.
The addition of Hines Ward to ‘the booth’ during halftime of NBC’s Football Night in ‘Merica has been a bland, albiet smiley, rendition of ‘Hey retired guy, give me your summarized 20 second thoughts on this matter.’ Yet, on Sunday night, while watching his former team face off against the Bengals, Hines Ward revealed a bit of closed door culture the Steelers offense lived in during the late tenure of Bruce Arians.
There’s always been speculation that BA and Ben Roethlisberger became a little ‘too close’ and that was what prompted the move of BA out and Todd Haley in. When Costas asked Ward if he bought into that, Hines became very open about the matter:
"Well, sometimes I think when you get so close, partiality sets it, and you don’t know if Bruce Arians is doing what’s best for the Steelers or if he’s doing what’s best for Ben Roethlisberger. And I think that set in. And they had to part ways, because when you go out there and you can’t decide what’s best for the team, and you’re doing what’s best for the player, sometimes it can be a problem."
Holy shnikees. I don’t think anyone watching this ever thought that Ward would open up this much about what happens behind the closed doors of meeting rooms and the locker room. Not only does this damn BA in the way he schemed the offense, but, in a way, it also damns Roethlisberger and how he handled his relationship with BA – which turns out (if what Hines said is true) to be a bunch of BS.
If ya buy into what Hines is dishing out, it certainly pours a mountain of salt into the wound of Steeler Nation and their strong disliking (ok…. hatred) of how BA ran the Steeler offense. Many, including myself and others here on NPC, felt that BA called a horrible game and was somehow ‘selfish.’ Turns out that may not have been as delusional as some called us out to be.
There is, however, another side to this coin. Is Ward still a bit bitter about being let go by the Steelers organization this spring and is a little loose with his tongue when it comes to his critique? Teary eyed as it was of a ‘retirement’ speech, I can’t believe that Hines left with his big bright smile on his face the day the front office said, ‘Thanks for all your hard work over all these seasons, but we’re going to decide when you are ‘done.” I’m suspicious about the motives as to why Ward became so brutally honest about BA’s and Roethlisberger’s relationship. To say that a coach actually called the offense to benefit the player over the rest of the offense, and therefore, the overall success of the organization is ballsy…. and just a touch vindictive. It’s small slap (or huge depending on how big you envision that white glove) in the face of not only BA, but even more so the Steelers organization.
Who else knew what was going on and for how long? Ward, unless he moonlighted with Kojak on the side, could not have been the only one to deduce what was going on. Higher ups had to know. Coaches had to know. Therefore, it’s a slight against the organization for letting it take place at all and for a certain period of time.
So, was Ward right to say what he did? Or was there just a bit too much bitterness underlying the whole thing?