Brown: Porter's Departure Troubles Steelers Stars
Brown, Scott, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The backdrop at Walt Disney World on Friday offered a stark contrast to the reality rammed home to two of the Steelers' most prominent players a day earlier.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward are at a veritable fantasy land this weekend, taking part in the annual "ESPN The Weekend" at Disney's MGM Studios, and both said they understand that football at this level is a business as much as it is a game.
But each also said that realization didn't make the loss of outside linebacker Joey Porter, who was released Thursday because of financial considerations, any easier.
"I got better playing against Joey Porter," Roethlisberger said yesterday. "Just everything that he brought made me a better player."
"I think (the Steelers cutting Porter) just shocked everybody, regardless of the situation," Ward said. "Joey's always been the catalyst of our defense, the focal point of our defense. There's no question losing a Joey Porter hurts our team defensively."
His release is another change in an offseason that has been full of them for the Steelers.
Bill Cowher, who had been the Steelers head coach since 1992, resigned in January, and no one is sure what shape the Steelers will take under Mike Tomlin, especially after what happened with Porter.
"(Alan) Faneca called me, some of the veteran guys, my phone has been blowing up like, 'What the hell are we doing?' " said Ward, a nine-year veteran. "A lot of guys are questioning what's going on, kind of worried about the makeup of this team, where we are actually going to go."
Ward said he has talked to Tomlin, liked what the new coach had to say and is excited to play for him.
But Porter's release was, if not unsettling to Ward, at least the equivalent of cold water thrown in the face. …