Mike Singletary Says He Vetoed 49ers' Trade for Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger in 2009

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 27, 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) walks off the field at the end of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 42-21. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
AP Photo/Ed Zurga

Ben Roethlisberger's 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers was nearly less than half of that.

Former 49ers coach Mike Singletary revealed Pittsburgh and San Francisco had a deal in place that would have sent Roethlisberger to the Bay Area in 2009. Singletary said he blocked the deal over concerns with Roethlisberger's character and because of loyalty to Alex Smith, the 49ers' then-starter.

“I had been telling the team I wanted a team of character,” Singletary told Dan Pompei of The Athletic. “I felt I had to be true to that. But if I could do it again, I’d do it differently.”

Roethlisberger had been accused of raping a woman in Nevada around the time the two sides were negotiating the trade. A second woman accused the quarterback of rape in 2010.

While Roethlisberger was not criminally charged in either case, he settled a civil lawsuit with the first woman in 2012 and was suspended for the first six games of the 2010 NFL season for his conduct. Police said the second case did not have enough evidence to prosecute.

Smith, who would later go on to make three Pro Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs, struggled in the two seasons Singletary spent as the 49ers' full-time coach. He missed five games each season because of injury and threw for 32 touchdowns against 22 interceptions during that timeframe.

Roethlisberger, by contrast, was 18-9 as a starter in 2009 and 2010. He threw for 43 touchdowns against 17 interceptions while posting a 99.0 quarterback rating. 

From a moral standpoint, Singletary made a prudent—and one could even argue applaudable—decision. But it's clear the Hall of Fame linebacker, who has not gotten a second chance as a head coach in the NFL, regrets the decision from a football perspective.