What started out as a pretty nice offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers has turned into another media relations nightmare.
The franchise was coming off a busier then usual free agency period, and a successful one at that.
Kicker Jeff Reed, safety Ryan Clark, and nose tackle Casey Hampton stayed put, while wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El and inside linebacker Larry Foote returned to the black and gold.
Life was peachy in the Steel City.
Then came the Ben Roethlisberger Show, Part II.
Big Ben was accused of sexual assault on March 5, his second such accusation in nine months, by a 20-year-old female college student in Georgia. Roethlisberger's trouble was followed by Tuesday's assault accusation hurled against wide receiver Santonio Holmes in Florida. That investigation has been dropped by the police, but the 21-year-old woman is still pursuing her lawsuit.
Let the circus begin.
The media frenzy has caused so much of a distraction that Roethlisberger was told by the Steelers to stay away from voluntary workouts this week.
Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to meet with Ben about these allegations. Here was his comments about the situation.
"First, I think the most important thing is we take the issue very seriously," Goodell said. "We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position. I have spoken to the Steelers. I have spoken to Art Rooney directly about it. And at the appropriate time I will be meeting with Ben."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin uncharacteristically had this to say on NFL Network:
"I'm highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben personally."
Pretty serious stuff, to say the least.
No one knows for sure if he's guilty or innocent, except Roethlisberger and his accuser. The truth will eventually come out. In the end it always does.
I believe he's innocent, but I've been wrong before and will be so again.
One thing I'm sure of is this:
Roethlisberger needs a visit from the grow-up fairy.
It's time for Ben to join the world of adults. He's the unquestioned face of the franchise—the leader of the offense. To keep putting himself in these types of situations is immature and irresponsible.
He's not only letting down the franchise and his teammates—he's letting down Ben Roethlisberger as well.
Discipline isn't an option in the NFL. It's a must-have.
Last season, despite the injuries, there was a clear lack of discipline in the locker room. So much so that former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, James Harrison, spoke out openly on the subject.
This is not a team defending a Super Bowl title like last season. This is a franchise that went 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2009.The Bengals won the division last season and the Ravens added wide receiver Anquan Boldin to give quarterback Joe Flacco a legit go-to guy. The AFC North has become scary good.
Ben needed to be at the voluntary workouts, because that's what leaders do—they show up and out-work everyone else. They lead by example. Instead he's a no-show because of his penchant for the nightlife and party scene.
Roethlisberger is 28, not some teenager with runaway hormones. He can control and discipline himself to stay away from situations like these if he wants to. The problem lies in his unwillingness to do so.
It's a problem the Pittsburgh Steelers organization needs to take very seriously.
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