Ben Roethlisberger's Off-Field Issues Offsetting On-Field Accomplishments

Nick Mordowanec@NickMordoCorrespondent IApril 13, 2010

MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks back to the huddle after injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-24.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

I’ll be the first to say I respect what Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has accomplished in the National Football League.

Not the flashiest player or the gunslinger who will put up the greatest numbers, “Big Ben” is a leader for not only the Steelers offense, but the entire team in general.

He has been a catalyst as Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowl championships in his six seasons at the helm.

However, his career has been marred by incidents that have taken place off the field.

First, in the summer of 2006, Roethlisberger was involved in a dangerous motorcycle spill in Pittsburgh in which he was not wearing his helmet. To make matters worse, he was driving his motorcycle without a valid license.

After crashing through the windshield of an unsuspecting vehicle, he was ridiculed by NFL analysts and even members of the Steelers family, from Bill Cowher to Terry Bradshaw. People thought he was being reckless and endangering himself, not to mention putting his NFL career in jeopardy.

Then three summers later, Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault by a hotel worker at a resort in Lake Tahoe.

It was a Kobe Bryant-like situation in which the accuser (Andrea McNulty) said Roethlisberger forced himself on her, but sworn statements ended up revealing the sex was consensual.

Roethlisberger was out of the woods in a legal sense, but his behavior was still making waves nationwide.

What occurred most recently was arguably Roethlisberger’s biggest off-field challenge.

Just around one month ago he was accused of sexual assault in a nightclub in Georgia. It was a huge story and another in a series of events in which Steelers coach Mike Tomlin described as being “highly concerned” for both Roethlisberger and the franchise itself.

After a lack of evidence was discovered, along with the dropping of charges by the girl Roethlisberger was in contact with, the case was settled, and Roethlisberger is once again a free man. On April 12 he issued a statement in which he expressed remorse for his actions.

While these three incidents did not find Roethlisberger guilty by the binding rules of the legal system, he is in pretty hot water in the public spectrum. His coach is constantly worrying about him, while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has surely kept his eye on “Big Ben” and may come down with an eventual suspension—just as he did with a former Steeler who was involved in off-field activities, Santonio Holmes.

Speaking of Holmes, one must wonder whether the Steelers would have ever even dealt him to the New York Jets if Roethlisberger was not facing such giant accusations.

Maybe the franchise is growing tired of Roethlisberger getting in legal bouts, especially some as large as being accused of sexual assault. He readjusted his contract in 2008, agreeing to an eight-year, $102 million deal as he had two years remaining from his original draft contract.

Looking at it that way, the Steelers and Roethlisberger are bound together for a long time in financial terms, but one must wonder what would happen if Roethlisberger gets in trouble again. Would he be suspended as badly as Pac-Man Jones was in his strip club incident?

It’s premature to know, and it all depends on whether Roethlisberger becomes snakebitten once more in terms of his own transgressions. He will have to watch how he behaves, who he hangs out with, and what he is doing on a daily basis. The ball is in his court to make things better by acting like a model human being and representing both himself and the Pittsburgh Steelers organization with class and dignity.

Not to force added pressure, but the NFL and the entire country will surely have their eyes on him.


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