Former franchise Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has an opinion on the NIL era, and it’s not one you would expect. He isn’t feeling it.
The future Hall of Famer recently dished on his new life as a professional football retiree. He delved into the subject of the mentality and treatment of athletes today during the name, image, and likeness era.
“I might be standing on a soapbox a little bit, but that’s my biggest takeaway from when I started to the end. It turned from a team-first to a me-type attitude,” Roethlisberger said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was hard. It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college.”
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) July 22, 2022
For the first time ever, collegiate and even high school athletes are now rivaling their idols in the NFL by pulling up to practice fields across the country in luxury vehicles with sponsors, NIL agents, and more. With social media driving the conversation with every like and audacious athletic and lifestyle post, today’s young up-and-coming stars are already living a piece of their dream before even potentially being drafted.
“Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable,” Roethlisberger continued. “They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too. I know coach [Terry] Hoeppner never coddled me [at Miami of Ohio]. Neither did [Bill] Cowher.”
The debate on a mentality shift is occurring in the media between veterans of all professional sports and the undrafted professional hopefuls already landing endorsements some of their progenitors couldn’t capture. Roethlisberger, an 18-year veteran of the Steelers, has a perspective rooted in the old process of bringing up a football player from college to the pros.
Ben Roethlisberger's legacy with the Steelers is already established. pic.twitter.com/Zy8HkP6aO2
— Steelers Nation (@SteelerNationCP) July 22, 2022
With coaches like Deion Sanders raising the profile of HBCU players in underserved markets and now attracting top recruits like Travis Hunter away from the Power Five Conferences replete with NIL deals already on the table, the new era is also a cultural revolution.
“I feel like the game has changed,” Roethlisberger continued. “I feel like the people have changed in a sense. Maybe it’s because I got spoiled when I came in. The team was so important. It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other.”
Recently USC QB recruit Malachi Nelson dished on how his new NIL deal is structured so as not to affect his public perception during downturns in his season. Where some NIL deals want their athletes to post during good or bad times in a season, Nelson understands that his core audience isn’t feeling a sponsored post after a loss.
“Last year, there were some college guys that had a bad game, and then they had to wake up the next morning and post this endorsement deal,” Nelson said to On3. “It doesn’t look very good. So my team has put me in a position to avoid that happening.”
Roethlisberger’s day was about the collective, and today’s athlete has to worry about their brand before they even get to the NFL draft phase. As he sits back and enjoys not having to get ready for Tuesday’s Steelers return to camp, a new day is here as veteran players lament the upgrades to the non-professional athlete life.