Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger Escapes Media Scrutiny, Seeks Third Ring

Dexter RogersCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rolls out of the pocket against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger is on the cusp of leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to another Super Bowl appearance.  All he has to do is lead his team past the persistent New York Jets in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

Roethlisberger has quietly positioned himself to win as many Super Bowls as the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady.

Roethlisberger has been characterized by the media as a leader. He’s hailed as the guy who can evade the rush, play through injuries and make big plays when it counts the most. 

By most accounts, Big Ben has had a great year.  He’s passed for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns with just five interceptions.  Roethlisberger’s totals would be higher, but he missed the first four games because he violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Anyone remember?

Based on how the media has protected and praised Roethlisberger, it doesn’t seem like he’s missed any time at all. 

Unlike African-American athletes Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Michael Vick and Terrell Owens, Roethlisberger has been given the ultimate pass by the sports media. 

What else do you expect from a mainstream sports media that is lily-white?

When 94, 88 and 89 of the sports editors, columnists and reporters are white, one can logically expect whites to get preferential treatment.

I have been consistent in stating why I feel the latter is true, and I will continue to do so: Big Ben has received preferential treatment because of a combination of his celebrity, complexion and media protection.

Roethlisberger plays for one of the storied franchises in professional sports.  Personally, I am not a Steelers fan, but I give respect when respect is due.  But on an individual level, I find it difficult to respect the likes of Roethlisberger.

The Steelers are arguably the best franchise in NFL history.  I have always had high regard for the Rooney family and how they run their franchise.

I respect the Steelers for giving Joe Gilliam a chance to start at quarterback in 1974.  Most NFL franchises were reluctant to have African-American quarterbacks on their team, let alone as starters.  While Gilliam’s stint at quarterback was cut short, the Rooney family and the great Chuck Noll gave him an opportunity most teams would not.

I respect the Steelers for giving a relative unknown in Mike Tomlin a chance to flourish.  Tomlin is just the third head coach in Steelers history.  He has already won a Super Bowl and is gearing up for another one. 

The Steelers are a first-rate franchise.  They win the right way, and players are rarely embroiled in controversy.  

The Steelers typically draft players who fit their brand.  That being said, while Roethlisberger is a solid quarterback, he surely does not fit the Steelers mold.  Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault at least two times and has consistently displayed behavior that is unbecoming of an NFL quarterback.

The Steelers will be facing former Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. Holmes had some off-the-field issues like Roethlisberger.  Those issues were cited as why he was essentially gift wrapped and handed to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.

It can be asserted Roethlisberger’s behavior was just as detrimental to the team, yet the Steelers made Holmes an example, but they kept Roethlisberger. 


What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. 

Most of us know there are different strokes for different folks.  Bottom line: White athletes in the media like Roethlisberger are often cut slack, while African-American athletes like Holmes are shafted unfairly.

Even ESPN admitted as such.  They showcased a poll during a round-table discussion in celebrating the legacy of Mr. Luther King, Jr. last week.  The poll indicated African-American athletes like Michael Vick were disliked more than whites like Roethlisberger.  A strong contributing factor how the athletes were viewed resulted from the inequitable media coverage provided.

Slice the pie as you wish, Roethlisberger has clearly been protected.  The Steelers sent him to detention, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell slapped him on the wrist and the media sent him to his room without dinner.

Meanwhile, the other quarterback in Pennsylvania who wears No. 7 has been scrutinized beyond measure.  Michael Vick is two years removed from prison, yet he still is scrutinized by a segment of the mainstream resulting from the persistent coverage of the media.

Despite Vick’s stellar play and contributions he’s making off the field, he is still viewed as a convict who should have been “executed”, as FOX personality Tucker Carlson put it. 

Vick has been subject to newspaper headlines such as “Con Vick” and “Top Dog”.

Has Roethlisberger been subject to such scrutiny?

Was Big Ben subject to headlines such as “Rapelisberger?”

Has Roethlisberger been consistently interviewed by networks about his rehab, rocky past or his sexual assault allegations?


As Roethlisberger tries to keep the Steelers on track to win their record seventh Super Bowl, he has benefited from the witness protection program the media placed him in.

While I have a great deal of respect for the Steelers organization, I don’t subscribe to how they—along with the NFL and the media—allowed Roethlisberger back into the fold without paying the media piper.

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