I stare sullenly at my favorite Steelers jersey, a white one bearing a black seven and a golden "Roethlisberger" across the back, and I contemplate the question that has been on my mind since this whole circus began:
How do I ever wear that shirt again?
I have many friends who are college-aged females, as well as several young female cousins. Every time I look at that jersey, I think of them.
And I think of him.
When the Steelers picked Ben Roethlisberger with the No. 11 selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, I rejoiced.
Finally, someone to erase the memories of Neil O'Donnell and Kordell Stewart. He would eventually replace Tommy Maddox, who had his time.
It was all so exciting.
In 2005 and 2008, he lead the Steelers to their first two Super Bowls since Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll were running the show.
Never mind that motorcycle accident in 2006. That was just Ben being a young maverick.
Then last summer came.
I must admit, the first set of allegations against Roethlisberger were worthless in my opinion. I still can't bring myself to believe them. Everything just seems wrong, out of place.
Then this summer came.
This time, I'm not sure what to believe. Every few days, something new happens. This case is certainly not ending anytime soon.
And every single day, Ben Roethlisberger looks less and less like he gets it.
I watched his press conference from the Steelers' locker room. He didn't look like someone who was sorry for what transpired, for tarnishing the good name of the Steelers with nothing less than his stupidity and possibly with something much more sinister.
How do we, as fans, move on from this doozy of an offseason bomb?
The opinions are wildly various. Some say Ben should be traded for a first round pick, a top-10 selection, where we could draft a new quarterback and start all over again.
Others say he should serve out his suspension, handed down yesterday by the NFL, and seek the counseling that Roger Goodell is making mandatory.
Some say we should just let him serve out his suspension and then forget about it.
I'm not sure where I stand on this one.
As a rabid and sometimes over-the-top Steelers fan, I have trouble with the idea of getting rid of an elite player (two if you want to bring Santonio Holmes back into the discussion) when you have a team primed to win another title.
Even if the team could somehow snag Sam Bradford, my favorite quarterback prospect in a few years for various reasons, I'm not sure how I'd feel about taking a year or two to get him ready. This team can win now .
But it's not all about winning. I'm reminded of this as I look at that jersey and can't fathom ever putting it on again.
Six games without pay (Ben will forfeit over $2 million for his actions) is a pretty serious punishment.
But it still means he'll be back on the field this season in black and gold, representing a franchise that has one of the cleanest records in football and is more of a family business than a corporate giant.
I just don't know if I'm ready to cheer the first Roethlisberger-led touchdown drive or boo the first sack.
Somehow it would feel wrong. It would, even if he is a new man in the eyes of the NFL, somehow still feel like I was rooting for someone who is a terrible person.
I'm haunted by the images of Ben speaking at that press conference.
He didn't look sorry for what he did. He looked sorry that he got caught.
What I saw was a man who still has no idea what the difference is between right and wrong.
And I still see my best friend going out for a fun night and ending up victimized by someone just like him.
Or one of my cousins when they get older.
And then I think maybe we should part ways now, before this somehow gets worse.
I'm sorry to say, but I think I'd rather spend two years growing a new quarterback than having two more rings. Winning isn't everything.
And if we win with people who can't do things the right way on AND off the field, then is it really winning at all?