Every time someone in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ organization does something wrong outside of football, the inevitable comparison to their all-pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger comes up and ignites a flurry of positive and negative reaction in the social media world.
Like the complete and total idiot I am, I always get sucked into it even though I tell myself to “just let it go.” The reason I can’t let it go is simple. I want to educate people and that’s only natural because that’s what I do for a living, not that this writing gig doesn’t pay the bills (rolls over in laughter).
Last week, Steelers’ Rookie running back Chris Rainey was arrested in Florida for what authorities said was an assault of his girlfriend over a cell phone. Within a couple of hours, the Steelers decided to part ways with Rainey because this wasn’t his first rodeo involving violence against women. He had an initial charge against him while attending Florida in which he threatened a woman.
Within minutes, the cracks and quips about him getting released and Roethlisberger being kept on the team after two incidents were flying faster than a Dennis Miller one-liner. What no longer surprises me is that many of the slams on Roethlisberger come from fans of the Steelers who continue to be embarrassed apparently by his past behavior.
Let me be straight-forward here. Ben Roethlisberger made poor choices. He put himself in less than positive circumstances and therefore opened himself up to the allegations that ensued. This is what we all need to understand though; Roethlisberger was never charged with a crime. He was never placed under arrest. He is guilty of poor-decision making and last I checked, that is not a crime.
If you think the Steelers standing by him in these instances has created a ‘double-standard’ in terms of dealing with off-field player issues then your absolutely correct. There is a double-standard with the franchise QB and why wouldn’t there be if you actually take the time to research the situations?
In one corner, you have a guy who has led the team to two Super Bowl wins in three tries and is the highest-paid player on the team. In the other, you have players like Cedrick Wilson, Alameda Ta’Amu and Chris Rainey for example who were all arrested and charged with crimes. Roethlisberger never fell into either of those categories. Ta’Amu is of course still on the roster, but that could change especially if he has to go to jail for his actions.
If you don’t think Roethlisberger has suffered because of the incidents then you don’t pay attention very well. While Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III appear in commercial after commercial, there is no sign of Roethlisberger. While part of that is due to advertisers clearly staying away, there is also a clear move by Roethlisberger himself to stay out of the public eye as much as possible.
He’s also suffered in the organization too. It was clear that team president Art Rooney II was not happy with his play which of course led to the ‘tweak’ comment and the “retirement” of his friend and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians last off-season. Franchise quarterbacks don’t usually get told to do such things and aren’t exactly tossed under the bus by their owners either. So to say that he hasn’t suffered from poor decisions and alleged misconduct wouldn’t be correct or fair.
Let’s also not forget that Roethlisberger was made the poster-child of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s “protect the shield” campaign when he hit the QB with a four-week suspension to start the 2010 season. He was given a larger suspension than players like Cedric Benson who received three games for assault. Aaron Berry of the Lions received a three game suspension when he was arrested twice in a year and Kenny Britt who was given just one game for various incidents with police.
You’ll notice all three of those examples were arrested AND charged yet received lesser suspensions than a franchise QB.
What Steelers’ fans need to understand is that what they have already witnessed for nine years and hopefully five or six more, is a rarity in this league. A franchise QB does not grow on trees and for those who consistently bash Roethlisberger for one thing or another will be reminded of names like Kent Graham, Cliff Stoudt, David Woodley or Mark Malone.
I do not condone violence against women in any way, shape or form. Because I believe Roethlisberger to be guilty of nothing more than making poor choices should not be taken as an endorsement that I’m giving him a ‘pass.’ What I also don’t condone however, is making someone guilty in a court of public opinion which millions of people have done in this situation.
Yes, there is a double-standard in Pittsburgh and no, you don’t have to like it. What you have to understand is that some day, there will be an appreciation of Roethlisberger much greater than there currently is when journeymen QBs are coming in and out of Pittsburgh with lightning speed and the team is struggling to compete.
Perhaps then, people will realize just what they have in Ben Roethlisberger.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.