"7-10 Split:" Scandals Shake the Steelers' Foundation

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IApril 16, 2010

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers argues a call with back judge Perry Paganelli during the game against the Green Bay Packers on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The sale and usage of illicit drugs. Lurid sexual encounters. Motorcycles crashed. Drinks tossed. No, it’s not Behind The Green Door. It’s better. It’s “Behind The Steel Curtain.”

In case you’ve been under a rock and/or don’t follow the always compelling legal matters of NFL superstars, you’re probably unaware that the Pittsburgh Steelers organization’s good name has been sullied by the actions of Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes. Although neither has actually been charged with any of the crimes they’re accused of committing, the Steelers felt they could not sit idly by without taking action. So, while the limitations of shabby law enforcement and the ambiguities of the legal system won’t allow repercussions, the sterling reputation of the Pittsburgh organization will . That was realized when the Steelers guttered Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-round pick, thus converting the “7-10 split.”

It was an admirable move by the Steelers, but was it a wise one? Together, Roethlisberger and Holmes formed one of the NFL’s most lethal connections. Now, the words “lethal connection,” modified by three or so letters, can easily spell “legal conviction.” What are those three letters? It’s not “DNA” or “THC,” but it’s clear that actions bordering on criminal have robbed the Steelers of arguably their best offensive combination.

Holmes’ troubles include a domestic violence charge (which has been dropped) sandwiched by numerous marijuana issues. Most recently, Holmes is being sued by a Florida woman who claims he hit her in the face with a glass at an Orlando nightclub. Usually to Holmes, “thrown glass” means nothing more than a “passed bong.” However, this situation is much more serious.

Holmes claims his innocence, but I’m sure he can attest that the pain from such an injury is comparable to being “slapped” with a subpoena.

Holmes will be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. It’s clear Holmes has problems, but let’s not label him a miscreant just yet. He may or may not be, depending on his attorney’s fees.

How many times has a player with a history of domestic violence and drug abuse followed his NFL dream? Quite often. Heck, if you rid the league of all players with drug and/or domestic issues, you’d be left with nothing but quarterbacks. And the Steelers would also be missing a kicker.

Now, if you show an NFL scout a wide receiver with drug and domestic abuse issues, that scout will immediately draw comparisons to Michael Irvin. But, there are few instances in which a player’s character issues have prevented a team from drafting a player with a checkered past. In the NFL, physical gifts almost always override character issues. Holmes, you could say, was a risk. But you can also say the reward outweighed the risk. Until now.

Roethlisberger’s troubles started innocently enough when, back in June of 2006, he was seriously injured after wrecking his motorcycle. Wrecking a motorcycle does not make one a bad person, but driving a motorcycle without a helmet is certainly evidence of bad decision-making. Of course, if Roethlisberger had not wrecked, then the helmet decision would not be an issue.

But it sure does seem like a good decision compared to some of Roethlisberger’s latest decisions, particularly those which led to two sexual assault accusations, one in 2008 and the other in March of 2010, both of which took place in bars. As stated previously, Roethlisberger won’t face charges in either case due to lack of evidence. Finally, we can commend Big Ben for a good decision: not leaving the crime at the scene.

So, what conclusion can be gleaned from a motorcycle wreck and two sexual assault accusations? Only one: Roethlisberger needs a helmet to drive, and a lawyer to party.

Now, one could argue that Roethlisberger is simply a victim of bad luck. It’s doubtful he would argue that statement, and would also state that he trying his best to change his luck. Heck, in his efforts to “get lucky,” Roethlisberger has indeed found “luck,” as two , count ‘em, two , criminal charges have been dropped.

Roethlisberger’s name has been so tarnished that marketers don’t even trust it enough to sell beef jerky. PLB Sports, a marketing company, has discontinued a contract to make “Big Ben Beef Jerky.” Shame on Roethlisberger! No, not for his mistreatment of women. For depriving the world of “Big Ben Beef Jerky.” Now that’s criminal.

There’ll be no more “Big Ben Beef Jerky” on grocers’ shelves. Let’s hear it for Ty Ballou, president of PLB Sports. At least there’s one person who knows where Big Ben’s beef shouldn’t be.

It’s a development that's sure to have consumers of the product asking “Where’s the beef?” It’s a question that if Roethlisberger continues to ask of himself, then he will soon find “the beef” in a crime lab, scrutinized and analyzed. Instead of the beef jerky, Roethlisberger will find that he himself is the “processed meat.”

It’s probable that had Roethlisberger not been accused of his latest sexual assault, Holmes would likely still be a Steeler. Holmes was the fall guy for Roethlisberger’s stupidity, collateral damage, if you will. No, race had nothing to do with the Steelers decision. Holmes was not let go because he was black. In the eyes of the Pittsburgh front office, there’s no difference between a stupid white guy and a stupid black guy. But the stupid white guy is clearly more valuable to the Steelers. There’s not a woman alive who would label Roethlisberger a “keeper”, but the Steelers have no problem labeling him as such.

Does the acquisition of Holmes make the Jets a Super Bowl favorite? Absolutely. When you strengthen a team that advanced to the AFC championship game last year, then they have to at least become the most likely candidate to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. And Holmes’ acquisition definitely strengthens the team.

Along with Braylon Edwards, Holmes gives the Jets a dynamic wide receiving tandem, and one good set of hands. They’re sure to impress as the wideout duo known as “Dropped Balls, Dropped Charges”.

And Holmes, along with Jets defensive end and marijuana connoisseur Shaun Ellis, will encourage supply and demand to converge in economic equilibrium.

For a fifth-round pick, Holmes was a bargain. It matters not that he’ll miss the first four games of the season. I’m sure that when the Jets' front office and coaches analyzed the trade, they likely speculated on Holmes’ contribution in the last four games of the season anyway.

So, the Steelers’ loss is the Jets’ gain. And the Steelers’ loss is a clear message to Roethlisberger that if his behavior doesn’t improve, they’ll be forced to trade another player.