The Steelers slip to 7-5 certainly did create a buzz, but it is the off the field issues which give the Watch Tower its material, highlighting the divide between the old and new press.
As any Pittsburgh resident can tell you, stories about Ben Roethlisberger’s generate attention. Traffic on Post-Gazette.com the day of Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident exceeded that of Super Bowl XL.
- The slightest hint of a Roethlisberger injury is enough to prompt the local news to interrupt programing to preview a story about the signal callers issues with hang nails.
So the Bleacher Report made news with their sport medicine writer Will Carroll broke the story that Ben Roethlisberger had in fact broken an bone in his wrist in the loss to the Saints. The fact that he was held out of practice only seemed to add credence.
- All of which provides a window into how press coverage of the Steelers works.
Yours truly learned of the news during a quick scan of Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I also write for BTSC on occasion.) Site editor Neal Coolong wrote a quick article referencing the story, and then publishing a tweet from Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola.
Publishing such an article makes sound business sense, even if, on this occasion, Coolong (who does have sources on the South Side) did not have any new information to add. Any report of a Roethlisberger injury is going to generate Google searches, and a big part of the SB Nation business model is to capture those.
- Interestingly enough, the BTSC article was titled: Ben Roethlisberger injury: Steelers QB didn’t practice Wednesday but it wasn’t injury-related.
Leading with the key word “Roethlisberger injury” both in the title and the URL kind of reminds you of the Kevin Nealon Saturday Night Live character, “Mr. Subliminal,” but the Watch Tower can’t quite bring itself to criticize our esteemed colleague and friend, as both moves represented smart business decisions, even if journalism purists might demure.
The traditional press quickly attacked the report.
Ben Roethlisberger just told me: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with my wrist.'' Disputed a report that he has a broken bone in wrist.
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) December 3, 2014
Bouchette’s tweet was backed by a story with quotes from Roethlisberger himself. Dale Lolley slammed the report too, comparing it to the Roethlisberger trade rumors of a year ago (something which the Watch Tower unfortunately never had a chance to cover….), and citing multiple sources in the organization which discredited it.
At the end of the day, it looked to be much to do about nothing. But it does show the power that one reporter with a national media outlet has to set the Steelers news cycle for least for a day.
Blount’s Departure Revisited
The previous edition of the Watch Tower discussed how coverage of LeGarrette Blount’s going AWOL at the end of the Titan’s game drew contrasting coverage from Steelers beat writers, with Ed Bouchette effectively signaling is departure.
- The story thickened when Blount was quickly signed by the New England Patriots.
The quickness of the move raised eyebrows. Dale Lolley was one of the first in the Steelers press corps to address the issue sharing:
Some people within the Steelers organization feel that Blount made a calculated move by leaving the field prior to the end of regulation in the team’s 27-24 win over Tennessee Monday night because he wanted out of Pittsburgh.
Lolley also made it clear that he doesn’t buy into such reports. Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette also weighed in on the issue, issuing the following tweet:
On the Steelers: Twist in Blount's career raises a suspicious eyebrow http://t.co/7fZHbUlvua via @pittsburghpg
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 23, 2014
The tweet was backed up by a story. Bouchette did not cite any indirect sources the way Lolley did, but he did explore the hypothetical ways in which Blount and the Patriots could have colluded to secure his release. (He also chided the Steelers for not doing more to punish Blount.)
From a media analysis stand point these stories tell us a number of things:
1. There are people in the Steelers organization who at least suspect that Bill Belichick under handed ways at work
2. This kind of thing is plausible
Bouchette made a point of telling his readers that contact between players and opposing teams happens all of the time. Agents do it all the time, and often times let reporters in on the story.
Assuming Le’Veon stays healthy for the balance of the season (God willing) this is a story that will die, but it’s interesting to discuss in the here and now.