Yesterday, Pro Football Talk seized upon a sound bite from former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders during his appearance on a Denver radio show late last week, during which he said that his new quarterback with the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, was “a far better leader” than Ben Roethlisberger.
The clip has been given a life of its own since PFT exposed it to a broader audience, which elicited a response from Sanders yesterday via Twitter:
I never said Ben wasn’t a leader… I just said Peyton is a better one. I have nothing but respect for Ben as a man and as a player. #truth
— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) July 28, 2014
He’s kind of going back and contradicting some of it while he’s actually saying it. What I read into that is a new system. I think he’s misconstruing the leadership for a different type of practice habits, or a different type of situation where he’s staying after and working with him.
But he has to understand, he’s a new receiver in a new system, so the quarterback is going to stay after with you. He’s going to give you more attention than some of the other receivers because this is your first opportunity. He doesn’t know you. He’s trying to become acclimated to you. What you like to do, where you like to catch the ball, all those things matter for Peyton Manning.
As I pointed out yesterday, Roethlisberger has been giving similar attention to his own new veteran receiver that his team brought in. Lance Moore is going to be taking on a big role in the Steelers’ offense this year as the slot receiver, so Roethlisberger has been working with him on overdrive to make sure that the two are on the same page.
But Bettis continued, and implied that Sanders’ reaction was partly a result of a bit of idolization on the young receiver’s part in working with a quarterback such as Manning. Beyond that, Bettis considered his comments “disrespectful” and “immature”:
I think he’s looking at it with rose colored lenses because he’s there, and he’s enamored by Peyton Manning and all that he’s been able to accomplish. So I think a little bit of that is him being wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, and really being a little disrespectful, I believe, to Ben Roethlisberger.
This is a guy who really developed you and got you to this point. He had his best season ever last year and I think he kind of overstepped, I thought, the boundaries in terms of leaving a former teammate and going to a new guy. He didn’t have to say it, he said it, and I think that was a little immature.
Even as a second-year player, Roethlisberger showed early signs of leadership when he helped rally the team around the retiring Bettis and urging the team on to the Super Bowl to allow the future Hall of Fame running back to retire as a champion. And were it not for a potentially game-saving tackle from Roethlisberger after a Bettis fumble at the goal line in the playoffs, that likely would never have been able to happen, so perhaps the former running back is looking at it through tinted frames as well.