David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger believes he has every right to publicly criticize teammates.
"I think I have earned the right to be able to do that with as long as I have been here," Roethlisberger said Wednesday, per Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "And I'll just be just as critical of myself [in the media], as well."
It is hard to argue with his assertion, considering he is a six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion and one of the best quarterbacks of his generation.
Adamski noted Roethlisberger criticized wide receivers Antonio Brown and James Washington, as well as offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan after Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Adamski provided the quarterback's quotes in which Roethlisberger said of a Washington drop, "You're not going to be out there if you're not going to make those plays for us."
He also said the Steelers should have targeted JuJu Smith-Schuster "four straight plays" during their last drive and said of Brown's route on an interception: "I told him, 'You have to come in flat. You can't drift in the end zone.'"
There was surely some frustration in place for Roethlisberger, considering the loss snapped the team's six-game winning streak and dropped it to 7-3-1. Pittsburgh also dropped in back of the New England Patriots and Houston Texans in the race for the second first-round bye in the AFC playoffs behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Steelers will play the Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints in their final five games, who boast a combined 26-7 record. It is difficult to envision that Pittsburgh will get that bye if it loses even two of those daunting contests.
While he pointed some of the blame toward his coaching staff and teammates, Roethlisberger threw two interceptions against Denver, including one on his team's final possession. Pittsburgh trailed by seven and reached the Broncos' 2-yard line, but Shelby Harris picked off a poor throw to end the visitors' hopes of a touchdown and either forcing overtime with an extra point or going for the win with a two-point conversion.
Chris Harris Jr. also intercepted a pass in Broncos territory earlier in the game, ending a potential scoring drive.
Roethlisberger has been in the league 15 seasons and apparently won't hesitate to criticize his teammates as a form of leadership as he looks to direct the Steelers into the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.