FORT WORTH, Texas -- Ben Roethlisberger was spotted Tuesday night out on the town with some teammates at a piano bar. He he was caught d-d-d-drinking! He was even caught singing along to a Billy Joel song!
Should Roger Goodell open a full-fledged investigation?
"It was superstition and tradition," Roethlisberger explained in response to the first question asked of him Thursday. "Tuesday night, I take my linemen out to dinner, and we went out to dinner. We went to a great barbecue spot, which they wanted to do. So we went there and they wanted to listen to some live music. So we went to a piano bar and had an enjoyable night."
Coach Mike Tomlin has preached to his players the past two weeks that they should follow their usual routine, to do this week what they might do in the week leading up to a game in October. Tomlin and a number of Roethlisberger's teammates quickly -- some angrily -- came to his defense. Tomlin said his players are permitted to go out. Willie Colon, who was with his quarterback Tuesday, said it a little more strongly.
"We went to a piano bar. We sat there and watched two people sing and play music. If that's a bad thing then we don't need to go out ever, ever again. We're not 18-year-olds. We made our curfew.
"It does [tick] me off a lot because Ben's already been through enough with his whole image. He's extremely humble now, he's matured a lot. He wants to put all his bad media in the past, and it gets tainted again because he decided to sit with his fellow linemen at a piano bar and listen to music."
Roethlisberger, of course, is a special case that draws the spotlight. He was suspended for the first four games of the season by the NFL for shenanigans in a Georgia bar in March. Plus, the Super Bowl can turn a molehill into a mountain in a flash.
The amazing thing was that video of Roethlisberger at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar in Fort Worth did not appear at TMZ until more than a day later. Naturally, TMZ did not report that the quarterback was just drinking but "pounding drinks." The website also reported that Roethlisberger bought drinks for the bar, paid the $800 tab and added a $200 tip or 25 percent. So, more real evidence that he is a changed man.
Earlier in the week, it was reported that Hines Ward was spotted at a strip club. Fifteen years ago a big deal was made of Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene and others flying from Arizona to Las Vegas on their Tuesday day off before Super Bowl XXX to participate in a Wrestlemania.
"If we were in Pittsburgh and Hines was in a strip club and Ben was out drinking on Monday, would it be an issue?" Casey Hampton asked. "It wouldn't be an issue. You have to do the same things you do to prepare for a game in the Super Bowl that you do to prepare for any other game."
Nobody wrote about Hampton, but he may have visited a strip club or two himself the other night.
"No question," Hampton said about whether he left his hotel room to sample the North Texas nightlife this week. "I'm going to get out, man. I'm not changing for nobody. That's just me, man. I'm a grown man. I've been grown for a long time.
"And, if I go out on Friday night, if that's what I do, that's my business, man, because I know on Sunday I know how to prepare myself to play. If that's how I prepare myself, that's what it is."
Hampton said no one ever asks him what he does in Pittsburgh the week leading up to a game, so why now? Hampton took some of his teammates to show them around his home state the other night.
"Oh, yeah, we definitely went out and had a good time, man. But that's what we do. You can't try to switch it up and please people. You have to go out and do what you need to do to get prepared."
Ward laughed when the topic of Roethlisberger's latest TMZ appearance meant anything.
"If the guy goes out, he goes out. As long as he comes in, he's not missing curfew, he's not getting arrested, he's not causing any trouble.
"You have to enjoy the Super Bowl. But once ... Wednesday came, it's back to business. Guys are just going out to eat dinner. At the end of the day, you're a grown man. You don't have to hide."
Asked if Roethlisberger has to hold himself to a higher standard after all he's gone through this year, Ward said that's not the issue.
"The guy made a mistake. I'm pretty sure he's not going to do the same mistake and go out and do the same thing. He shouldn't have to hide in his house worrying about public perception. If he wants to go out and have a drink or have something with his buddies, he's human, he's having a normal life.
"We don't get caught up in that. It's people outside. At the end of the day, there's always going to be somebody to say something. If the guy is not causing trouble and he's enjoying it, let it be.
"Coach Tomlin ... Mr. [Art] Rooney, they don't get caught up in that stuff. He's done everything up to this point to prove that he is a changed man.
"I got a question the other day, 'Are you worried about what he's going to do in the offseason?' No, I'm not worried about Ben in the offseason. Ben will be fine, he's a grown man. If we have to start worrying about what grown men are going to do, then you can write stories all day long about each and every individual in this world."
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org . Staff writer Michael Sanserino contributed to this story. First Published February 4, 2011 5:00 AM