Why the Haley-Roethlisberger Drama is the Non-Story of the Year

Approaching 30, it's time for Ben Roethlisberger to evolve as a quarterback, if not a person.

If we ever needed indisputable evidence that the shadow economy of sports entertainment has seeped too far into our collective craniums, the proof came last week during Hi-Gate.

For the uninitiated, highly intelligent people who chose to read a book or play with their children instead of lapping up this delirious Dove for Men soap opera (cue George Thorogood gee-tar twang): Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, did not introduce themselves to one another at Haley’s grand unveiling last week at Steelers HQ. Thus, a presumptive Cold War was born. Columnists hacked away. TV yokels cackled. Twitter was atwitter with talk of a power struggle.

It’s all gone too far, really. Somewhere along the line, after ESPN hinged our eyeballs to the circuits of its Kubrickian post-apocalyptic sportscape and before Doritos released its avant-garde 3-D commercial “Wiffle Bat to the Nuts, Buy Our Chips,” we officially crossed the plane into another dimension. Our overreaction to two grown millionaire men not saying hello to one another in the hallway is the watershed moment of our Brave New World. It’s Khrushchev slamming his shoe on the podium. As we rap our slippers against the TV dinner tray in disgust, we are now officially, unequivocally taking sports too seriously.

After years of tireless work, the Media Industrial Complex has finally turned the sport of Hank Stram and Jack Lambert and Bart Starr into The Real Housebros of the NFL. Every time I turn on NFL Network, I half expect to see Haley in the confessional room sporting blonde extensions and weeping about how devastated he was that Roethlisberger didn’t show up to his charity gala for canine dyslexia.


The original Real Housebro, T.O., pours his heart out in the confessional.

We do this with everything now. Like in matters of politics, economy and other grave national concerns, we obsess over the mind-numbing minutia of sound bytes and manufactured drama, because, really, who wants to sort out the tough questions? What’s a trillion dollar deficit compared to the public glee of Mitt Romney’s “Happy Days” gaffe? The coal-fired social media machine needs its sooty fuel.

Make no mistake, the Steelers have very real strategic concerns going into the 2012 season and beyond which have little to do with the interpersonal relationship of HaleyBerger. Those who worry that the frosty reception will be a long-term distraction need only to look a year into the past. The circus resulting from sexual assault charges and an ensuing suspension didn’t keep Roethlisberger from reaching the Super Bowl.

The truth — the one that we try to spit-shine into submission on Sunday morning pregame shows with soft-lit interviews and puff profiles — the truth everlasting is that, within the confines of sport, you can be both an unbridled asshole and an undeniable winner. I believe this is also called “Wall Street.”

We like to make a big deal out of personal drama because it makes the incomprehensible math of the NFL a little bit more palatable. But the Steelers won a Super Bowl in 2005 when their defensive leader, Joey Porter, wouldn’t have followed Roethlisberger on Twitter, let alone to war. Back then, Roethlisberger barely spoke to anyone outside his small circle, and it didn’t matter, because he was uncommonly good at extending plays and throwing from outside the pocket.

In order to grow as a quarterback, Roethlisberger needs a boss, not a buddy.


And he will get a boss (cue Rick Ross grunt).

Despite the manufactured drama, Haley was brought in to help Roethlisberger extend his career. The two-time Super Bowl winner will only be 30 by the start of training camp, but he has absorbed the punishment of a typical 35-year-old quarterback over the course of eight seasons spent running for his life behind patchwork offensive lines. Consider this: Roethlisberger's peers in the 2004 NFL Draft, Eli Manning and Phil Rivers, have been sacked a total of 194 and 171 times respectively over their careers. Roethlisberger has endured 314 sacks.

Haley wants to keep Roethlisberger in the pocket, where he will ward off pressure with short, efficient strikes instead of his usual madcap escapes to the sidelines.

As Roethlisberger enters his career’s final act, it’s a savvy tactical decision. While he made little effort to hide his frustration over Haley’s plans to give the offense a “clean slate,” Roethlisberger is only getting older. He needs to ask himself how he wants his 30s to play out. If the Steelers have had one fatal, recurring flaw that has undermined their supremely talented teams in the post-Cowher era, it’s predictability on offense.

What matters is not the forest — the overall percentage of runs and passes in a season (also known as the gradual disappearance of Smash Mouth Football). What truly matters are the trees — the crucial plays late in games when the Steelers offense has relied too heavily on old tricks (the bubble screens that opponents could see coming from the break of the huddle, the drive-killing second-and-long-shotgun draws that go nowhere). Too often, the Steelers offense lacked the rhythm and inertia of the high-percentage offenses that they were forced to watch in the Super Bowl.

Last season, the Steelers were an old team based on old ideas. That only works for so long. In today’s NFL, success is all about evolution (just don’t tell Tebow). Roethlisberger doesn’t have to like Haley, but if he wants to be healthy at 35, he needs to adopt his offense.

We think these guys will be around forever. The narrative makes them seem invincible (and for good reason; these Norse Gods do sell us low-financed flat screens and car insurance, after all). But Roethlisberger needs only to look across the league at Peyton Manning, or across his own city at Sidney Crosby, to see that no one is invincible. Hi-Gate is more proof that these yoked up super-jocks are far too old for personal growth, but luckily it’s not too late for Roethlisberger to grow professionally.

With Eli’s Super Bowl win, he now has some extra motivation — a legacy to protect. Brady’s career is fading and he knows it, Manning’s is ending and he doesn’t know it, and the new era needs a champion.

Plus, I can’t wait until these guys finally get together and re-enact the ultimate manshake from Predator. Talk about a power struggle.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Two years after Chuck Noll’s death, University of Pittsburgh Press prepares to publish the first definitive biography of the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach. Pittsburgh Magazine is proud to share an interview with author Michael MacCambridge and an exclusive excerpt of “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work,” scheduled for release in October.
The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

Renovation is under way at nearly all of our area colleges and universities. For students heading back to school this fall — and their parents — we offer this crash course on the highlights of these projects and their projected benefits.
Fall Fashion: In the Black

Fall Fashion: In the Black

The little black dress, and shirt, and pants, never go out of style. Add mystery to your wardrobe with these easy-to-accent autumn staples.
Apteka: A Taste of Home

Apteka: A Taste of Home

Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski bring top-notch vegan, eastern European cuisine to Bloomfield.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Southwest Airlines Planning More Flights from Pittsburgh

Southwest Airlines Planning More Flights from Pittsburgh

The Allegheny County Airport Authority has been lobbying for more direct service from Pittsburgh to the West Coast.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Where to Go at the Three Day Blow

Where to Go at the Three Day Blow

Our dining critic (and Three Day Blow organizing committee member) has a roundup of some open to the public events.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Comic Shops in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Comic Shops in Pittsburgh

These comic book shops offer more than just your casual Batman or Spider-Man choices.

Comments


New Industry Public House Location Up to Par

New Industry Public House Location Up to Par

If you’re in need of a dining option that’s not a national chain while visiting the Robinson area, this is one to keep in mind.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Le'Veon Bell Talks The Talk But Can’t Walk The Walk

Le'Veon Bell Talks The Talk But Can’t Walk The Walk

The Steelers running back emphasized his latest suspension resulted from missed random drug tests, and not a relapse into the marijuana-induced haze that got him jammed up last season. But if you lack the maturity to grasp the consequences of your actions (or, in this case, inactions), does it really matter?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Custom Made: The Surmesur Suit

Custom Made: The Surmesur Suit

Straight out of Canada, the custom menswear store opens its first U.S. location in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
'Hands of Stone' Keeps the Boxing Movie Genre Strong

'Hands of Stone' Keeps the Boxing Movie Genre Strong

Reviews of "Hands of Stone" and "Don't Breathe," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Lucky Ones: Katie Doré and John Potter

The Lucky Ones: Katie Doré and John Potter

Want even more Real Pittsburgh Weddings? We'll be bringing them to you throughout the fall, beginning with this lovely and lucky couple.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Put a Lid On It! The Container Store Coming to Pittsburgh

Put a Lid On It! The Container Store Coming to Pittsburgh

The store famous for carrying storage and organizational products is set to open at the revamped Block Northway in Ross Township.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Two Events Planned for Prospective Waynesburg Students

Two Events Planned for Prospective Waynesburg Students

A fall visitation day and a Saturday information session aim to allow interested students a look into life at the university.

Comments

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags