Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't commit a crime and, unless the organization had its head in the sand, is really just a 28-year-old guy with too much money and time on his hands.
The foolish punishment that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down Wednesday doesn't address the problem Roethlisberger seems to have. He likes to party too hard and he gets his kicks from the gaggle of groupies who follow guys like him around town after dark.
A six-game suspension is ridiculous. If every NFL player who partied too hard and was guilty of questionable behavior around women got hit with six games, some teams would have trouble fielding a full squad on many Sundays.
Is he sitting out six games for drinking his way from club to club? Or is he punished for pursuing the women who, we all know, pursue guys like him relentlessly?
Roethlisberger deserves a harsh punishment for not upholding the NFL's conduct code. (That's going to be a very specific code with a policy outlining every imaginable offense and a punishment when the next collective bargaining agreement is struck.)
Roethlisberger can do more to show he understands what his actions have done to the women he's been involved with, his reputation and to the NFL. If he takes some sage advice, he can come out of this a better man with the respect of fans and players across the country.
Any NFL team that isn't lining up to offer the Steelers a sweet deal to acquire Roethlisberger is either responding to orders from commissioner Goodell or so incredibly unaware of the value a 28-year-old quarterback with two Super Bowl rings has for any franchise in the NFL.
The San Francisco 49ers, using the Jay Cutler trade as a model, should offer one first round pick this year, one first round pick next year, a third-rounder this spring and veteran quarterback Alex Smith for Roethlisberger. That is almost the identical deal that the Chicago Bears offered for Cutler—except that they packaged career backup Kyle Orton rather than a former No. 1 overall pick and current starter like Alex Smith.
The 49ers are so close to being a true Super Bowl contender. The ownership is on the verge of using the No. 13 pick overall to select Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Who wouldn't rather have Ben Roethlisberger over Clausen?
The trade would enable the 49ers to come away with a Super Bowl champion QB and an offensive tackle or defensive back from Thursday's first round. Next year's pick won't be a high first round pick because an 8-8 team will have played six games, maybe four if Roethlisberger's good, with David Carr at quarterback before turning the reigns over to, arguably, one of the top four quarterbacks in the NFL.
Oh, the Steelers wouldn't accept the 49ers offer. They're posing, trying to scare Roethlisberger into changing his ways. If I were Roethlisberger, I'd dare them—publicly— to trade me. Then, I'd go about using his time on the sidelines and his considerable cash to show he really understands things.
He can sit out six games, come back and play and we'd never know if he learned damned thing. If he takes matters into his own hands, we'd be sure he had changed. And, boy, wouldn't it be nice if your team had him on their roster simply because the Steelers decided to be holier than thou and righteously trade a young guy for acting like a jackass.
First, Roethlisberger could take $500,000 (on top of the millions he'll be using in salary) and donate it to a women's shelter in Pittsburgh, Georgia, and Lake Tahoe. He can go to the towns where he got himself in trouble, by himself, and deliver $150,000 to to a couple of shelters to show that he really understands that women are not to be mistreated.
If he delivers another $150,000 to women's shelters in Pittsburgh, on his own, no agent or media around, we can be pretty certain that he knows women aren't objects or play things.
Second, Roethlisberger should start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every single day. Anyone who attends even a single meeting is never the same again. He's not an alcoholic or he wouldn't have been such an effective NFL QB. You can't play like that drunk or hung over for 16 weeks. But, he has a drinking problem and he needs to understand where it could take him.
Third, he should spend his time away from football setting up a schedule of speaking engagements at college and high school campuses in Georgia, Nevada, and Pittsburgh. He should talk to boys and girls about how he came to be a party animal who crossed the line and, now, is in jeopardy of losing his liveliehood.
Athletes should never be role models to kids, but imagine the impact it would have on teens and 20-somethings if a Super Bowl quarterback told them, "I love to party, just like you. It nearly ruined my life ... here's what happened. Don't do what I did."
Don't fight the suspension and, certainly, don't dignify Goodell's ridiculous punishment with any sort of appeal. Rather, leave the agents and public relations staff behind and go to the people. Use the money he has for good, as opposed to squandering it in night clubs previously. Go show women that you understand they're people, with feelings and rights and that you'll help protect them.
Do that and Roethlisberger doesn't have to worry about which team he plays for or whether he pleased the Steelers ownership. He'll have started showing fans he gets the fact that he was on a path to personal destruction...and we'll cheer him for realizing it.
All the better if the 49ers put together a better package than the Bears used to get Orton and the new, even better Roethlisberger comes to play in San Francisco.
Ted Sillanpaa is a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area sports writer and columnist. Contact Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org