Brian Billick delivered a classic compliment sandwich to Ben Roethlisberger Tuesday.
He wrapped two fresh slices of bread — “This guy’s going to the Hall of Fame … Toughest quarterback maybe I’ve seen in the NFL” — around a slab of moldy beef.
“But he’s a diva, we know that,” Billick told The Fan Morning Show. “And he’s going to drag that leg out there, and he’s gonna throw for 400 yards against the (Baltimore) Ravens.”
The implication, a recurring one, is that Roethlisberger embellishes injuries to make his heroic performances seem that much more heroic. Or maybe his bad performances seem somewhat excusable.
Billick’s shot came just two weeks after another ex-Raven, linebacker Bart Scott, called Roethlisberger a “drama king” after watching him limp to the bitter end against the Miami Dolphins. Scott didn’t offer a sandwich, either. Just the beef.
What’s going on here?
Do these guys have a legitimate point or are they just bitter old Ravens who never beat Ben in a big game?
Kordell comes to Ben's defense: I lean hard toward the latter, but before we get into that, allow me to introduce Kordell Stewart. Of all people. I’m guessing you didn’t expect him to appear in this column. He showed up Tuesday on The Fan, vehemently disagreed with Billick and wondered how the “toughest quarterback” could also be a “diva” who’s going to “drag that leg out there.”
“Now, I’ve never seen a diva drag a leg out on the football field,” Stewart said. “I just think (Roethlisberger’s) a tough guy. … When I think of a diva, I think of a prima donna. A little more soft. I don’t think Ben comes across that way.”
Kordell then delivered a monster shot, when asked about Cam Newton claiming he doesn’t feel safe on the football field anymore.
“See, that’s the difference between a diva and let’s just say, Ben Roethlisberger,” Stewart said.
Is "drama king" reputation deserved: But let’s get back to Ben, and whether his “drama king” rep is deserved. Because it’s not just ex-Ravens who propagate it.
Current ones do, too.
“Don’t fall for that,” linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters Tuesday when asked if Roethlisberger, who was a limited practice participant, might sit. “I saw this movie before, you know. He’s gonna act like, ‘Aw, I’m not playing, I don’t know, I did individual (workouts) a little bit.’ But then he’ll walk his big (butt) on out there and (I’ll be like), ‘How you doin’ Benjamin?’ ”
He has embellished: Let’s be honest here: Parts of these claims are true. Or at least used to be. While “Benjamin” is about as far from soft as a football player could be — to call him a “diva” is ludicrous — he has embellished from time to time.
One classic example was Roethlisberger claiming he’d broken toes in the 2004 AFC championship game, only to hear Bill Cowher tell the media a few days later: “Ben does not have broken toes, OK?”
Another was the “Fever Game” against Jacksonville in 2006, when Michele Tafoya reported that Roethlisberger, who had a rough game, told her he had a 104-degree fever. Cowher was asked about it the next day.
“The fever was 100.4, not 104, OK?” Cowher said. “Somebody miscalculated a decimal point.”
So it was misreported?
“I don’t know. I didn’t watch any pregame shows,” said Cowher, obviously unaware he would one day star on one.
I called Tafoya after Cowher’s news conference. She was adamant that Roethlisberger told her the fever was 104. These kinds of things made for a reputation, and those can be hard to kill. But that was 10 years ago.
He wasn't acting vs. Dolphins: Roethlisberger certainly wasn’t acting three weeks ago against the Dolphins. Scott made a fool of himself by insinuating as much. Roethlisberger played through an injury that required surgery the next day.
So is this: He’s probably going to shake off whatever pain remains and grab a helmet Sunday. And, yeah, probably throw for 400 yards.