Put emotions aside and stop Roethlisberger trade talk


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I wanted so badly to hear Steelers president Art Rooney II put an end to all of the troubling speculation Wednesday.

"We are not looking to trade Ben Roethlisberger. He is our quarterback now and will be our quarterback in the future. We won two Super Bowls with him. We plan on winning more with him."

Instead, I got this from him:

"We can't answer questions about trades."

Please tell me the Steelers aren't looking to move Roethlisberger.

Let me clarify that point.

Unless the Steelers know something deep, dark and dirty about Roethlisberger that goes beyond his problems in Georgia or unless they are convinced he is incorrigible as a human being and will embarrass the organization again with his abhorrent behavior, they would be crazy to trade him.

The Steelers are in the business of winning games, just like any other professional sports team. Roethlisberger, as a franchise quarterback, gives them their best chance. You want to get rid of him? That's easy to say in April. Get back to me in December when the Steelers are 4-10. Get back to me in December 2011, when they are 5-9. Get back to me after they have gone years and years searching for that next great quarterback who can win for them.

Spare me the argument that you would rather the Steelers lose than keep Roethlisberger. I won't tell you that you aren't entitled to your feelings. I'll just say that I believe you are in the minority. The majority of fans want to see their team win with good guys. If they can't have that, they'll settle for their team winning.

Rooney II has to get that.

He has to know that time, a few terrific performances by Roethlisberger next season and a lot of Steelers' victories will ease the public's perception of the quarterback and his team.

Don't underestimate the importance of time.

The wounds Roethlisberger has caused are still fresh and oozing. We just learned April 12 that he wasn't going to be charged in the Georgia sexual assault. We just learned Wednesday that he must serve a conditional six-game suspension handed down by the NFL.

It's an emotional time.

Certainly, it isn't the time for the Steelers to make a decision that could have an impact on their franchise for years.

I'm suggesting the situation might seem a little different in September.

A little less dire.

That isn't to condone Roethlisberger's actions in Georgia. Far from it. A 28-year-old man hanging out at a college bar at 2 a.m.? Buying shots of alcohol for underage patrons? Ending up in a dingy bathroom with an intoxicated 20-year-old girl?

If stupid, immature behavior were against the law, they could lock Roethlisberger up and throw away the key.

That's why his suspension -- presumably, it will be reduced to four games if he behaves himself -- is fair. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has every right to protect his league's brand. Roethlisberger badly tarnished it and must be punished.

But the Steelers trading him?

No.

That's not necessarily going to restore the organization's good name. It might be a little too late for that because of the beating that good name has taken the past few years. The organization that says it's "above and beyond" its NFL peers when it comes to player conduct -- coach Mike Tomlin's assessment last month -- put its franchise tag on kicker Jeff Reed after he had two off-the-field incidents in eight months. It gave linebacker James Harrison a six-year, $51,175,000 contract after he was involved in a domestic-abuse incident. It didn't trade wide receiver Santonio Holmes until after he had his fourth episode involving police intervention, made a series of offensive tweets on Twitter and was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse program.

Trading Roethlisberger isn't going to restore the Steelers' image.

They've proved they are no different than any other team that wants to win.

All trading Roethlisberger would do is weaken the Steelers from a competitive standpoint.

Where is the good in that?

It's not as if Roethlisberger can't be rehabilitated. People love a comeback story, don't they? It's nice to think this suspension will force him to grow up in a hurry. If he can't see that he must change his ways when he looks in his mirror, he should be able to see it when he looks at the faces of his teammates. How can he look any of those guys in the eye? When they play their first four regular-season games, he won't be there with them. He won't be there for them. They must try to get by with Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch at quarterback.

It's hard to imagine a worse feeling for any athlete than the feeling he has let his buddies down.

If that doesn't scare Roethlisberger straight, nothing will.

Here's hoping the Steelers give him one more chance to prove himself.

Here's hoping they don't trade him.


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. on 93.7 The Fan.


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