The Patriots and Steelers are set for another heavyweight clash Sunday with AFC playoff seeding implications on the line, but Pittsburgh’s backup running back also has some beef to settle with his old team.
Stevan Ridley said the Patriots “trashed” him after he tore his ACL and MCL playing in the final year of his rookie contract for them in 2014.
“I was trashed after an injury,” Ridley told the Boston Herald. “I’m just going to put it that way. I’m not going to say specifically, but to be a starter for (the Patriots) for four years, to tear my ACL and never get a call back, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Since then, Ridley has spent time with seven different teams — including the Jets in 2015 — and rushed for only 265 yards. But he’s been waiting for another shot at the Patriots.
“I’m very open and I have to be real: I want this game more than any other game, man,” Ridley said. “That’s just the bottom line to it. And it’ll be that way from this year until I go in the grave. I’m just that kind of person.”
The Patriots drafted Ridley out of LSU in 2011. He rushed for 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns across 52 games in New England, which went on to win the Super Bowl after Ridley was injured in the 2014 campaign.
Since his departure, the Patriots have not had a steady long-term running back, which Ridley seems to believe he could have been for them.
“And now they’re still looking for a running back to try to come in and play — how many running backs have been through there to try to give them some consistency as a quote-unquote first or second down back?” Ridley said. “They’re still looking for it right now. Yeah, it’s very personal. It is.”
Plenty of carries opened up this season in Pittsburgh when Le’Veon Bell decided to hold out without a new contract, but James Conner earned the heavy share of them. Conner has since been injured, but now rookie Jaylen Samuels has emerged as the featured back.
Still, Ridley will be running with some extra motivation Sunday whenever he gets the ball.
“That’s my old team. [The departure] really hadn’t sat well, and I’m a competitor,” Ridley told Pittsburgh media Thursday. “I’m going to compete. To have the opportunity to be out there on the field, going against my old team, you can bet it. I’m fired up about it and I’m excited.”