I was asked by the Washington Post to share my thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger's situation for the paper's online NFL panel. I was a bit late responding, but my write up should make its way onto the site and compliment what's already been written about the subject by a number of nice writers from around the country in the next hour or so.
The question? Do you want Big Ben quarterbacking your team in the future given the latest alleged incident?
The moderator of the panel appropriately mentioned that it was an open ended topic that should be addressed how we see fit given how none of us know at all just what went down last Thursday night in the small, sleepy college town of Milledgeville, Georgia. The basic framework of the discussion though was - should Roethlisberger be entrusted to lead a franchise like the Steelers moving forward given his string of off-field mishaps.
Anyway, as you probably noticed, I've reserved any sort of judgment and commentary on this subject since the news broke. It's not my thing first of all. I've taken satisfaction this past five years writing and conversing with you all because I like football, not because I obsess over 'stars' or individuals, or any of the off the field crap that they bring into the equation for our experience as fans. If, gasp, Roethlisberger were shuttled out of town for this or for something else in the future, I'd still enjoy following Steelers football just as much each and every Sunday during the season - and year round when games are on hiatus.
Take the Tommy Maddox years for example. In hindsight, those years were miserable. Far from 'Steelers Football', no two ways about it. But, that said, you can't tell me that you feel like you wasted your two to three hours each week watching the Black 'n Gold during those years. If you're trying to be stubborn, let me re-phrase the question: did you really not enjoy watching Hines Ward catch more than 200 passes for nearly 2,500 yards and 22 TDs in 2002 and 2003? Didn't think so.
Point being (for me at least), I'll just let this stuff play out as it will, not worry too much about it, shake my head if the worst comes to fruition, hope to God that this is the last time Ben screws up if he's given another chance, and when the games resume next fall, I'll find a way to get as mentally engaged and committed to this team regardless of who is under center.
Still, admittedly, when you're talking about a franchise $100+ million quarterback, you gotta pay attention to things like this. My rambling thoughts below aren't the product of hours of contemplation or anything like that. But they do, I suppose, encapsulate by and large what I feel about the whole situation. I'll shut up, but let me conclude by saying that I haven't read every last report, interview, etc etc concerning the case, so my views may very well be formulated without pertinent information about what may or may not happen with Big Ben in Pittsburgh in the future.
-Michael Bean (Blitz)
With so many of the facts still unknown, I suppose we should all tread extremely lightly. But then again, the court of public opinion has never, and will never, be bound entirely by the decisions rendered by a court of law. So here we go, in no particular order. A thought for every Super Bowl triumph by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1) Do I want Ben Roethlisberger quarterbacking the Steelers in the future? Even if he is guilty of some sort of wrongdoing beyond merely carrousing with college students and making a tawdry advance at a young lady in a bar restroom? Yes, yes I do. I'm no legal expert, but I did a quick perusal of Georgian sexual assault laws and read that sexual battery (non-aggravated) is a misdemeanor, not a felony. It's a serious misdemeanor, but we're not (usually) talking jail time. Again, we don't know what happened, but assuming Big Ben did in fact sexually assault this woman, I personally don't think he's committed a transgression that merits blackballing him from the Steelers organization permanently.
2) I say that partly because Big Ben is one of the game's three to five best quarterbacks, and arguably the game's most potent 'crunch time' signal caller. So, yes, my black and gold colored shades may be on when I write this, but I want Roethlisberger quarterbacking the Steelers as many years as he can.
3) That said, this is the final straw for Big Ben. I'm not sure what to make of the previous sexual assault case brought against Big Ben last summer - the civil suit stemming from an incident at a Lake Tahoe resort. The case never had much legs and Ben was cleared of any wrongdoing. Still, was that an example of Ben showing poor judgment? Or was this an extortion scheme by a desperate woman, nothing more, nothing less? I don't know. Anyway, it's hard to count that as a 'strike', but it did shed negative light and attention on the franchise the Rooney family has taken such painstaking measures to build and maintain. Prior to that of course was the motorcycle incident in the late summer of 2006. The Steelers had just won the Super Bowl, so Steeler Nation was a bit more wont to give Ben the benefit of the doubt for riding without a helmet and not being properly licensed. Plus, he was just about to enter his third year in the league. He was young, bound to make mistakes. Well, Ben's older now and judgment still seems to be an issue. Furthermore, most of us can imagine ourselves making a dumb mistake like riding without a helmet. Not many of us can imagine ourselves being sexually aggressive in a bathroom stall (in any fashion, legal or illegal).
4) Speaking of judgment, it's really hard to expect anybody to not go out on the town and enjoy themselves at that age. Just because there's potential pitfalls anytime you mix fame, money, celebrity status and alcohol doesn't mean that it should be a black-and-white issue. Professional athletes may live a delusional life in the flesh and in their own minds, but they're still adults that have the right to spend their evening hours how they see fit, even if that means going to an establishment where unfortunate incidents all too often occur. That said, it's impossible to excuse Roethlisberger's decision to even engage in any sort of behavior inside a bar bathroom except for using the facilities, washing his hands, and promptly returning back out into the establishment. Seriously, who hits on women in restrooms?
5) Roethlisberger is paid like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, guys who you never hear stories about off the field. Nobody in Steeler Nation is asking Big Ben to forego having any sort of fun or social life, but with a $100 million dollar contract comes certain expectations. Again, perfection is not expected. We all live and learn in our early and mid 20s, but there has to be a sense of urgency to make adjustments. We as Steelers fans are beginning to wonder if Ben at all feels a sense of urgency to get his act together.
6) I'll conclude by saying that I do think Ben will get the wake up call this time. Whether he's guilty or innocent - matters not. His reputation and image are now tarnished, and even a non-gentleman jock (Sorry Ben, you deserve it) like him has to know that he's on very, very thin ice (at best) with the organization moving forward. I think he will get that message, because he's not an awful person from a dark and checkered past. I think he knows his back is up against the wall here, irregardless of what transpires with his legal situation. And as we all know, there's no better performer with his back against the wall and odds stacked against him than Ben Roethlisberger.