Since the 'troubles' began (as the Irish would say) there has been a lot of re-evaluation of the draft, at least among ourselves, with the idea that the Steelers are not going to touch players that have had any run-ins with the law, or whose 'intangibles' have anything questionable. After we drafted Pouncey, I went looking to see what was said about him. Although I didn't find any flowery panegyrics to his off-field awesomeness, he does seem like a solid kid with a good upbringing and a great work ethic.All of which is very satisfactory. But I found myself wondering (and maybe some of you long-time fans can help me out here) what the Steelers thought they were getting when they drafted Ben. I thought about googling "Ben Roethlisberger character" and quickly realized that I wasn't likely to be able to garner much information from much over a few months ago, unless I worked my way through all 480,000 page hits. Since I wasn't a fan when Ben was drafted, or even during his first few years here, I don't have any prior information to go on, other than what I've seen stated recently. One thing that really surprised me was somebody's mention that when he first entered the league he wrote "PFJ" on the bottom of his cleats, until the NFL made him take it off. ("PFJ" means, I gather, Plays for Jesus.) At any rate, it suddenly struck me that Ben was most likely viewed as a good character player when he was drafted.
No, this isn't another post about Ben. It's a question about what "character" means in the context of a team, or even more specifically, our team. And it is a question about what teams (and specifically our team) are doing to help "good character" players deal with the sudden dizzying influx of wealth and fame. I gather, because I did a little research, that there are rookie clinics on money management, not embarrassing the NFL (apparently the latter isn't working, or not well enough) and so on. And I know that the Steelers have a player development staff person. But clearly these things are not enough, at least in some cases, to either turn around a player that comes in with issues (like, say, Santonio) or to help develop those seemingly without them (like, say, Ben.)
The players are adults, at least age-wise, and seriously large men in many cases, and there is only so much leverage the team has. But is there a more effective way to help these guys to be good citizens, and for that matter is there a good way to identify those who are likely to have/be problems?
Part of the ruling on Ben is that he has to go through a character evaluation. I don't know what that is, but I suspect it is the sort of thing that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in "Blink." (A really interesting book BTW if you haven't read it.) He discusses an associative test in which you discover what people really think about things (especially tricky topics like race and gender relations) by getting people's 'gut' reactions. In other words, they aren't allowed the time to think about their answers. In Ben's case, I think it would be really interesting to run the test twice - once when sober, once when not.
At any rate, I wonder if such a thing could be given to all incoming players to identify potential problem areas. You could then require whatever counseling, mentoring, etc. seemed to be indicated, if any. You might then re-administer the test on a random basis, and definitely if you are noting any hint of trouble.
Finally, there was a great article in the Trib this morning, here, comparing the 'grooming' of Sidney Crosby and lack thereof of Ben. Some good food for thought. Now, your thoughts?