Big Ben's troubles tarnish Steelers' image

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Even though Georgia authorities have confirmed they're no longer seeking Ben Roethlisberger's DNA, the quarterback's situation remains fluid.

So to speak.

Take the matter of conflicting reports involving Ed Garland, Roethlisberger's legal ace and a litigator with a capacious reputation for getting tough guys out of tough spots. One report has Garland disputing the notion that he has unleashed a team of investigators into the wilds of Georgia to gather further information about the night of March 4/5. Another quotes one of the presumptive sleuths, one Charles Mittelstadt, who says he's employing "folks that would blend into the student population."

Because it was in a hot little nest of campus bars that Roethlisberger somehow made himself even more notorious, private eyes with skewed ballcaps and tatts are suddenly in demand.

Who'd a thunk?

For full disclosure, a part of me feels bad for Ben. Unfortunately, it's the part of me that enjoys Maury Povich.

I mean, poor No. 7. Without giving up some DNA, he's never getting on Maury. He's never going to get a chance to do the You Are Not The Father Dance. He's probably never going to meet Sholonda, who I believe still holds the Maury Povich record for most DNA tests ordered, one offspring, 17. Unless, of course, Sholonda shows up at a celebrity golf tournament or an obscure campus bar. Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday was a day for reckless speculation on the meaning of Ben's personal deoxyribonucleic acid no longer being sought by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Garland was quick enough to say he thought it meant the authorities had nothing with which to match it, but others in the legal community were just as quick with the interpretation that the case against Roethlisberger was so strong that prosecutors can sack him without an all-out forensic blitz.

But in Steelers Nation, if you must, it felt very much as if a fourth-and-26 had just been converted. Did I hear the chains move? Roethlisberger still might not even be at the 30-yard line, but if there's a chance he won't be charged, there's probably a chance he won't be suspended, giving him a chance to lead R Stillers to a rousing duplication of last year's stirring 9-7.

Even with Ben's best outcome, however, there remains a serious conflict for the Steelers-afflicted.

On one hand, you have the reconstructed face of the organization continually putting himself in harm's way, turning up in TMZ video (never a good thing), necessitating professional explanations of what constitutes sexual assault as opposed to what constitutes rape, all of which are reason enough for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to alert Roethlisberger he has decided on "the appropriate time" for a chat. It'll be a formal scolding, one that isn't likely to begin with something like, "So Ben, I understand you have a very active lifestyle."

On the other hand, you have Dan Rooney, coming up on his 78th birthday, still going to Mass every morning in Dublin as the United States ambassador to Ireland, which many would consider a lesser post than Chairman Emeritus, Pittsburgh Steelers.

The gap between those images isn't one you're supposed to be able to drown a tradition in, which is what concerns not only so many of the organization's frothing supporters, but also its officials as well.

What other rhetorical genesis explains Mike Tomlin's "concerns"?

"I think it's well known that we're very, very conscious of how we do business," Tomlin said in Orlando, Fla., this week, "that we're very highly concerned about our image, perception, how we conduct ourselves. Our standards of conduct I think are above and beyond those of our peers. We embrace that."

The Steelers' reputation for relatively good behavior is very likely a function of good luck rather than persnickety personnel evaluation, and its glossy less-likely-to-be-arrested-than-thou attitude is as much the optic overlay of its loyalists as any triumph of corporate psychological profiling.

But let's get back to fluidity, shall we?

Here's what else is fluid. The Philadelphia Eagles are suddenly entertaining offers for all three of their quarterbacks, Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and former dogfighting commissioner and convicted felon Michael Vick.

Would the Eagles take Roethlisberger in a trade? Maybe not; they've already got a No. 7 with an active lifestyle.

Would the Steelers consider cutting No. 7 if he's formally charged? It depends.

Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, also attending this week's NFL meetings in Orlando, noted with evident disgust the arrests of three wayward fish in the past seven weeks. Asked if any of those players would be cut, Sparano said this:

"I think you've got to look at the player's history. If the history was chronic and there was a lot of problems there in the past or any of those types of things, I think that's something you could consider."

I don't think the Steelers are considering that at this point, as Art Rooney II has indicated there's no hurry. But I think that might work against Roethlisberger. The organization's best minds now have time to stew over the damage his presence can bring to the brand they've so expertly crafted lo' these many years.

The Steelers should ask Ben for his DNA. Maybe they could freeze it, clone themselves a Jurassic Park Ben and hope the clone doesn't have such an active lifestyle.

Or not, but that would be a heck of a Maury Povich episode.


Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com .


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