Within about a week, two Pittsburgh Steeler players were involved in situations which led to suspensions. First, Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes received a four game suspension at the beginning of the 2010 regular season for violating the NFL’s drug policy. The suspension came on the heels of reports that Holmes was allegedly involved in a nightclub disturbance. These situations were just two of several incidents tarnishing Holmes’ reputation while in the land of the Three Rivers. Pittsburgh wasted no time in trading the former MVP to the Jets for a lowly fifth round draft pick. Holmes, once a huge star, is at risk of fading into obscurity. Simultaneously, Ben Roethlisberger had troubles of his own. In March, Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20 year old college student in Georgia. Criminal charges were not filed against the two-time Super Bowl winning QB, but, did he go too far with his actions in the eyes of the NFL?
Big Ben has made a splash in Pittsburgh ever since 2004, his rookie year, when he took over for an injured Tommy Maddox. The following year, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to win Super Bowl XL. Three years later, Big Ben did it again in Super Bowl XLIII. Two Super Bowl wins definitely makes you a legend in Pittsburgh, since the Steel City is hardcore about their football team. If you’re good on the field, you are exalted. If not, well, see ya later! Steeler fans didn’t seem to care quite as much about player off-the-field issues until the newest allegations against Roethlisberger came to light.
Maybe early stardom led to Roethlisberger’s poor choices. He obviously believed that the NFL’s personal conduct rules didn’t apply to him. Further, his moral compass was definitely turned off. Unfortunately, many talented athletes are coddled from a young age and are rarely told ‘No.” Often when that “No” word does surface, that talented athlete doesn’t like it and attempts to rebel. Case in point, I remember when Roethlisberger had a near-fatal motorcycle accident where he wasn’t wearing a helmet. The Steelers organization implored him to wear a helmet while riding and likely told him in private to stop riding a motorcycle altogether. What was Big Ben’s public response? He stated that he would continue riding without a helmet. That incident, and Roethlisberger’s response to it, should have raised a red flag in the minds of the Rooney family. I know I would have at least revised his contract and added provisions about off-the-field conduct.
With that said, what action would the Steelers organization take against their face-of-the-franchise quarterback who keeps making extremely poor decisions? For any other player on the roster, Pittsburgh’s modus operandi is to jettison the troublemaking player with breakneck speed...just ask Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes. However, this incident and a pending civil suit regarding alleged sexual assault in Nevada, brought negative attention not only to Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but to the League as well. So, in that regard, the Steelers had to wait for the NFL’s response prior to taking their own action, though it was reported that the Steelers did place Roethlisberger on the trading block, with no takers.
Inquiring minds wanted to know what, if any, punishment would be handed down to Roethlisberger, since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is known to be tough on players with off-field issues. However, this is the first time in Goodell’s tenure that a high-profile, franchise quarterback has run afoul of the League’s personal conduct policy. Would Goodell treat Roethlisberger differently and go lightly with any punishment or would he make an example of the QB. Further, many people wanted to see if there would be a hint of disparity between punishment Goodell has handed down to African American and this Caucasian player.
Ultimately, the League did the right thing in suspending Roethlisberger for six games, pending a behavioral analysis and a personal performance critique. Rothlisberger has apologized, which is the absolute least he can do. Hopefully he is concentrating on straightening out his life. Maybe there is player parity when it comes to the NFL doling out discipline.