Ben Roethlisberger: Soul Searching In Steelers Nation

Todd FlemingAnalyst IMarch 14, 2010

MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks back to the huddle after injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-24.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

What’s more important, winning championships or having a high character team?

One hopes that the two mesh nicely together, but what is the right answer when you have to overlook serious character flaws to field a championship team? 

Is it then worth it?

I’ve seen a lot of comments saying that Ben Roethlisberger should settle out of court and move on. There is plenty of wisdom in that for him.

But at what point do we as the fan base refuse to move on?

He’s not being accused of a minor misdemeanor here. We are not talking jaywalking. In both cases, he is being accused of serious criminal activity—one of the worst imaginable crimes and also one of the hardest to prosecute.

As plenty of people have pointed out, we don’t know exactly what happened. But this sounds bad. When Roethlisberger has to resort to the “she fell” defense, we have plenty of cause for concern.

His initial story sounded absurd. And if he appears guilty this time, what about the last case? It certainly shines a whole new light on it. I read the complaint in that case, and it wasn’t pretty.

For years, many of us Steelers fans have taken pride in the team’s high character reputation. Are we ready to give that up for the hopes of another Super Bowl ring?

As the Rooneys have parted company over the years with several players with serious character issues, I’ve cheered their willingness to do it. I saw it as a point of pride. There was every other team’s way, and then there was the Rooney way.

But it is much easier to let a marginal wide receiver like Cedric Wilson go than to cut ties with one of the best quarterbacks in football, a guy with hall of fame talent.

This has got to be an agonizing situation for Dan Rooney and the ownership team.

I’d be willing to bet that some of Roethlisberger’s fans who are rushing to defend him weren’t half as charitable when Ray Lewis and Kobe Bryant got into trouble. That’s understandable. He’s our guy.

But, at some point, some serious soul searching becomes the order of the day. Are we willing to watch Roethlisberger lead a different team to the Super Bowl? It may come to that.

The Steelers have cut ties with very good players before who have gotten themselves into trouble. Barry Foster was still a superb runner when they cut ties with him, and Plaxico Burress was one of the top five wide receivers in the league when they chose to not resign him.

I have to think Roethlisberger is starting to wear out his welcome, even with two Lombardi trophies to his name.

I don’t know how this will play out. I suspect Roethlisberger will probably weather this storm with an out of court settlement and return to the field this year. But, that is far from a given. If it does go to trial, he may very well have a losing hand based on what’s come out so far.

Regardless, I’ve lost faith in his character and that is the biggest disappointment for me.

I will never again wear my Roethlisberger jersey, nor will I look at him quite the same way.

At the very least, Roethlisberger is guilty of highly questionable conduct and terrible judgment. At worst, he is guilty of committing heinous crimes, probably on many occasions.

And I’m not a Roethlisberger hater.

Nobody cheered louder when he was drafted, and I still believe him to be among the top three quarterbacks in the league, maybe even the top two.

Remove the off-field issues from the equation, and I’d far rather have him running the offense than even Peyton Manning.

But if he actually is guilty of doing what he has now been accused twice of doing, I’d rather he not be the quarterback of our Steelers, even if it means we end up with a quarterback who combines the decision making of Kordell Stewart and the athleticism of Kent Graham.

Frankly, if the Rooneys did choose to cut ties with him now based on his poor decisions and character flaws, I would support that decision—even if it sets the team back a decade on the field.

And make no mistake, it would set the team back plenty.