Steeler Family: Big Ben's betrayal requires a tough, swift response
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What Ben Roethlisberger's disgrace has made clear is that the term Steeler Nation doesn't explain the half of it. It describes only the extent of fan affection for Pittsburgh's favorite team. It doesn't convey how personal the relationship is, how much the Steelers embody the region's values.
Steeler Nation should really be called Steeler Family, a clan of shared pain repulsed by the gross behavior of the Steelers quarterback, the region's erstwhile favorite adopted son.
Pittsburghers take the sting of betrayal personally. The investigative documents released Thursday in Milledgeville, Ga., make it clear that the values of Mr. Roethlisberger's employers -- and the everyday Pittsburghers who cheered him on -- have been seriously mocked.
The fact that District Attorney Fredric D. Bright decided not to prosecute the athlete for the alleged rape of a college student was no exoneration. As Mr. Bright said, his office doesn't prosecute morals, just crimes. The law has its standards, but Pittsburghers have theirs and in the court of public opinion they have a right to be repulsed.
Talk about lurid. The investigative report heaped more sordid detail onto what was already known of the case. It is a tale of sex, booze, entitlement and perhaps coercion. The accuser was very drunk. Her friends say they were prevented from coming to her aid by the Steeler's bodyguards.
While this is denied by the two off-duty police friends who were with Mr. Roethlisberger that night -- one a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police, the other an officer with the Coraopolis department -- their very presence at the scene raises disturbing questions and their superiors should demand explanations.
After praising the "thorough investigation" in his unpersuasive public statement that contained not a hint of sorrow for the young woman, Ben Roethlisberger is in no position to deny the sordid impression left by the investigators' findings. He reportedly knows his behavior must change.
Steeler Family is headed by a real and well-respected family, the Rooneys. On Thursday, team president Art Rooney II recognized public sentiment with a reassurance that punishment would be forthcoming, one coordinated with the National Football League.
If the wayward quarterback is to be suspended from games, which is the least the NFL should do, let the punishment be swift and sure. Steeler Family is counting on it.
First Published April 18, 2010 12:00 am