Ravens, fans likely enjoying Roethlisberger's mess

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You know what they're saying about you in Baltimore, don't you?

"You people in Pittsburgh really have a lot of nerve calling us 'Baltimorons' ... "

They're right.

At least for now there no longer is any justification to make fun of the Ravens or their faithful fans, no matter how enjoyable the experience.

This goes back to Friday, a day that was celebrated in Baltimore just as much as the Fourth of July will be this summer. That was the day the Ravens traded for big-time wide receiver Anquan Boldin, instantly becoming the team to beat in the AFC North Division. It also was the day that news broke of another sexual assault allegation against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

It's hard to say what made Ravens fans happier. I'm guessing the Roethlisberger mess.

Think how you would feel if, say, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin found himself in a similar jackpot.

You get the idea.

No, it's not very admirable to revel in someone's misfortune. It's despicable, actually. But we're all human beings with human frailties. Occasionally, we enjoy seeing someone squirm, especially when that person is the star player for our team's hated rival.

Well, Roethlisberger is squirming, big time.

So are the Steelers.

How those Ravens fans must be loving every second of it.

The Roethlisberger case might not be resolved soon. Investigators in Milledgeville, Ga., where he was accused of the sexual assault early Friday morning by a 20-year-old college student, held a brief news conference Monday to say they still want to interview seven potential witnesses as well as Roethlisberger for a second time. He hasn't been charged in the alleged incident but is taking the matter seriously enough that he has hired prominent Atlanta lawyer Ed Garland, who has represented such notable NFL players as the Ravens' Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis in high-profile criminal cases. Garland released a statement Monday, saying, "The facts show that there was no criminal activity. No sexual assault occurred."

No matter the outcome of the case, Roethlisberger will lose to at least some degree. His reputation has taken another big hit. This is the second sexual assault allegation against him in eight months. The first led to a civil suit in July by a Nevada woman, who claimed Roethlisberger raped her at a Lake Tahoe resort in July 2008. That case is dragging through the legal system.

Here's the best part for giddy Ravens fans: All of this leaves the Steelers in a terrible spot.

Franchise quarterbacks don't come along often. The Steelers have one in Roethlisberger -- a two-time Super Bowl winner -- and have invested $102 million in him, making him the face of the team. The Rooneys hardly could have imagined that Roethlisberger twice would make these kinds of headlines.

If it were a marginal player involved, the Steelers almost certainly would have released him. They cut wide receiver Cedrick Wilson in March 2008, after he was involved in a domestic abuse case. But the team can't release Roethlisberger. It needs him to win games.

Hypocrisy? Sure, it is.

Do stars get preferential treatment in life? Absolutely. The Steelers didn't release linebacker James Harrison after he was involved in a domestic case about the same time as Wilson. That might have had something to do with him being a Pro Bowl player a season earlier.

Is this turning out to be a very entertaining winter for Ravens fans? You know that answer.

What's funny is Baltimore didn't need the Roethlisberger case to make Friday a terrific day. Getting Boldin for third- and fourth-round draft picks in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals could have stood alone and served that purpose.

"The Ravens just got better," coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore media after the team immediately signed Boldin to a four-year, $28 million contract extension.

A lot better, actually.

The Ravens' defense, though aging, still is led by Lewis and remains good enough to win low-scoring games. Now, with the additions of Boldin and deep-threat wide receiver Donte' Stallworth to quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, the offense is capable of winning high-scoring games.

Boldin fills the Ravens' most glaring need.

"I believe I can help, maybe get them to another level," he told the team's website.

In unrelated personnel moves Monday, the Steelers signed two free agents -- safety Will Allen and wide receiver Arnaz Battle -- and agreed to contract terms with a third -- offensive tackle Jonathan Scott. Then Monday night, they reached an agreement with safety Ryan Clark, who appeared ready to leave as a free agent. Keeping Clark is good, unexpected news. He is a proven player to line up in the secondary next to Troy Polamalu.

Somehow, though, I don't think it ruined the day for Ravens fans.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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