The Pittsburgh Steelers open up their preseason at Heinz Field tomorrow night against the Detroit Lions.
The question on the minds of many Steelers fans is whether or not the embattled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play. Even though Roethlisberger was suspended six games for violating the personal conduct policy, he is allowed to play in preseason games.
Head coach Mike Tomlin is mum on whether Roethlisberger will play. Tomlin said, "We're going to make you come to the stadium to check that out."
Roethlisberger wants to play. He stated, "I want to play—I want to be out there with the guys. I'd like to play the whole game. If coach says I'm not going to play, it's his call."
A bigger question is this: Will Roethlisberger be greeted with cheers once he enters the game?
When Roethlisberger opened training two weeks ago, he walked alongside Heinz Ward and received cheers from fans.
After practice, Roethlisberger said, “It’s good to be able to put a lot of things in the offseason behind you and move on, and that’s what this is about and getting ready to play football. That’s my No. 1 focus—and winning a championship. That’s what this year is about. That’s what starting tonight is about, winning a championship. That’s where I’m at with it.”
During the second day of camp, Roethlisbeger proclaimed he’s sharp and glad to hear the fans are apparently on his side. He said, "It's neat to hear everybody cheering and seeing my jersey," Roethlisberger said. "It was a lot of encouragement."
This is just the first step in the methodical process of keeping Roethlisberger low-key and ensuring he gets back into the good graces of the Pittsburgh fans.
Based on the limited media coverage he’s received, it’s all but certain Big Ben will be in the good graces of fans despite his erratic behavior the last two years.
Roethlisberger averted a trial after a 20-year-old co-ed accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault in March. It appeared there was enough evidence for the case to stand trial, but oddly, it didn’t get there. The District Attorney’s office in Milledgeville, Georgia decided there wasn’t enough concrete evidence to move forward with a trial.
Now that Big Ben has been allowed to stay quiet since the March 5 incident, the atmosphere has been set for him to ease into the graces of the general public.
Why hasn’t the media hammered Roethlisberger with questions about his past the way Michael Vick has been blitzed by the media?
Vick, who throws himself a birthday party where Quanis Phillips was shot, and the news spread like wildfire. Before all of the facts were known, a segment of the sports world and the media wanted Vick kicked out of Philadelphia. Reports were even surfacing that Vick’s release from the team was certain.
Based on what?
Vick wasn’t charged with a crime, wasn’t jailed, or seriously considered as a viable suspect in the shooting, yet some writers were clamoring for Vick to be released by the Eagles, even though he did nothing wrong.
Now there’s Roethlisberger, who has been protected by the media. There’s Big Ben, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback who gets preferential treatment because of his complexion and the media structure, while Vick has been hammered.
Even though Roethlisberger wasn’t charged and wasn’t found guilty of any crime, he does remain guilty in the minds of some in the general public. Let’s see: A police officer resigns, surveillance tapes are mysteriously erased, and the media’s unwillingness to cover the case with the same level of persistence as it does African-Americans ensured a victory for Big Ben.
An audio tape of the interview with the 20-year-old co-ed was released for public consumption. Of course, this was done after the case was signed, sealed, and delivered in Roethlisberger’s favor. Based on what the victim expressed in the interview, this case warranted a more thorough investigation and a trial.
If the media tried to get Vick cut from the Eagles for throwing a birthday party, don’t you think they would’ve succeeded in bringing him down if he were in Roethlisberger’s shoes?
Say as you wish, but “something” transpired in that bathroom between the young co-ed and Roethlisberger, and it all wasn’t all consensual. But sadly, it’s irrelevant now, because the verdict is in.
Now, Roethlisberger has a 2008 civil case still pending.
Most don’t remember because the case has long been forgotten like the contributions of Curt Flood to free agency have been ignored. It’s forgotten because it’s not talked about, and if it’s not talked about, in essence, it really doesn’t exist.
Why hasn’t the media persisted in creating a negative atmosphere around Roethlisberger the way they do Vick?
Let’s be real: It has to do with a combination of race, ignorance, and the media's unwillingness to cover Roethlisberger with the same level of intensity as it does African-American athletes like Vick.
So, as the media graciously continues to ignore Roethlisberger’s troubles, the question is, will Roethlisberger be cheered if and when he takes snaps tomorrow?
Without question, he will be cheered once he steps on Heinz Field. All will be forgotten and the media will focus on his play rather than the shame he’s brought on himself and the Steelers organization.