As Emmanuel Sanders this week backed up his previous comments that Peyton Manning is a better leader than Ben Roethlisberger, there was a reaction … from Ben Roethlisberger.
“He’s going to say whatever he can about the quarterback he is with,” Roethlisberger said in a way that reflected his partial understanding of why Sanders made those comments.
“I was more disappointed he didn’t reach out to me. I know he told some other guys: ‘You know I love Ben, I didn’t mean it like that.’ I wish he would have reached out to me and just say that and I would have been fine with it.”
Instead of reaching out to Roethlisberger about his initial comments, Sanders told the NFL Network this week he stands by what he said.
“I have not one regret. If I said it, then I meant it,” Sanders told the NFL Network via Pro Football Talk.
“It wasn’t meant as disrespect for anyone. I’ve got so much love for everybody over there in Pittsburgh, and they know it — they know me. I didn’t mean any harm.”
Sanders, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers, signed this year with the Denver Broncos as a free agent. Early in their training camp, he compared Manning to Roethlisberger.
“I feel like Peyton is a far better leader, in terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort,” Sanders said. “This is the first time that I’ve had a quarterback that every single day after practice — no matter what his accolades, NFL MVP, Super Bowl ring — he keeps guys like me and [rookie receiver Cody] Latimer after practice. … He’s not one of those guys you’ve got to chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint.”
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown criticized Sanders for those words earlier in camp. Roethlisberger successfully lobbied for the Steelers to match the $2.5 million contract Sanders signed with the New England Patriots as a restricted free agent in 2013 so they could keep him.
Said Roethlisberger, “Whether he meant it or not, it hurt in a sense that I tried so hard to keep him here last year and was always supporting him. When he was down in practice, I always talked to him. When he had a baby, I was trying to help him.”
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.