NFL Bad Boys Under Center: Ben Roethlisberger (written in 2010)
First ballot Hall of Famer, 14 year Pittsburgh Steeler and winner of four Super Bowl titles, Terry Bradshaw knows what it takes to be a successful quarterback in the NFL both on and off the field. However, according to Bradshaw, it wasn’t always that way.
After a failed marriage, an injury, and then the loss of his starting job in 1974, Bradshaw, already a born-again Christian, confronted his demons, and later admitted “I had separated myself from God. I lived only for Terry Bradshaw, not for God. I tried to be one of the boys and went to every honky-tonk I could find and chased women and behaved in a way that was totally alien to anything I had ever known before … my whole life was out of control … I was trying to be someone else and was doing a rotten job of it.”
After consulting with God to help him steer his life back on course, Bradshaw suddenly felt "stronger mentally and physically”. After his revelation, Bradshaw returned to his starting job and the Steelers won their first of four championships with Bradshaw under center, beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX.
More recently, another Steeler Quarterback, 28 year old Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. This action occurred just one week after prosecutors dropped the charges against him involving a 20 year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March 2010. This was not the first time Roethlisberger had found himself in trouble. In 2008, a hotel employee alleges that the 6’5” 240 lb. quarterback sexually assaulted her in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe using force. There is a civil lawsuit still pending in that case.
After Steeler backup quarterback Byron Leftwich limped off the playing field in the final preseason game, Roethlisberger’s representatives, along with Steeler president Arthur J. Rooney II traveled to New York for a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss reducing Roethlisberger’s six game suspension. Bradshaw responded “Going to bars -- treating women like that; oh my God. I pray they don't cut [his NFL suspension] to four games. I hope they leave it at six. There is no excuse for that. The egos get out of hand.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC, the seventh-oldest in the NFL, and were originally called the Pittsburgh Pirates when Art Rooney purchased the team for $2,500 on July 8, 1933. Rooney would rename the team “Steelers” in 1940.
Owned and operated by just one family, it went from Art to his son Dan (the current U.S. ambassador to Ireland), and then to his son Art II. Dan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000 making him and his dad only the second father-son combination to be so honored.
Recently Steeler ownership has broadened. Two part owners, Timothy and Pat Rooney, purchased racetracks in New York and Florida where they later installed video slot machines, a violation of NFL policy, and in compliance with league rules, sold their shares in the team. Although the Rooney's still control the Steelers with the league minimum 30%, other investors have been brought in.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, in what has since been referred to as the NFL’s “modern era”, the Steelers have posted the best record in the league, won the most total games, the most divisional titles, earned the best winning percentage, have the most All-Pro nominations, and have accumulated the most Super Bowl wins (six). They are second overall in playoff wins and tied with the Miami Dolphins for most regular-season wins.
After the Pittsburgh brass met with Commissioner Goodell in his New York office, Ben Roethlisberger’s six game suspension was reduced to just four games.
In a letter to Roethlisberger, Goodel stated “You have told me and the Steelers that you are committed to making better decisions. Your actions over the past several months have been consistent with that promise and you must continue to honor that commitment.”
Steeler owner Art Rooney had this to say “Ben has done a good job this summer of growing as the person that he needs to be, both on and off the field. I am confident that Ben is committed to continuing in this positive direction.”
Roethlisberger, after receiving notification of his reduced NFL suspension made this statement “I have learned a lot over the past several months about myself as a person. I am committed to continuing on this path of being the type of person my family raised me to be, and exceeding what is expected of me as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Terry Bradshaw had this to say to Ben Roethlisberger upon hearing of the reduced suspension “I don't know that you've proven to the NFL that you're on the right path…”
Can Ben Roethlisberger change or will he simply reinvent his football persona in an attempt to avoid prosecution, termination, and damage to his reputation?
In 2006, just months after winning his first Super Bowl title, an unlicensed, unhelmeted, Roethlisberger crashed his unregistered 2005 Suzuki Hyabusa motorcycle in downtown Pittsburgh suffering a broken jaw and nose. After seven hours of surgery he vowed “If I ever ride again it certainly will be with a helmet.”
According to an article in SI VAULT, “A few months after the accident, a reporter and a cameraman for KDKA-TV, the CBS affiliate that broadcasts Steelers games, were driving on I-376 in Pittsburgh when they saw two men on motorcycles and recognized one as Roethlisberger, who was not wearing a helmet. They began shooting footage, which showed Roethlisberger giving them the finger as he sped away, but the video never aired. The station's news director at the time, John Verrilli, and its current assistant news director, Anne Linaberger, deny that any such tape existed, but several people who saw the video gave SI similar accounts of the tape; sources believe the story was killed out of fear that it would damage KDKA's relationship with the Steelers.”
Just two years after Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident, the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII by defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23, finishing the season 15-4. In March of 2009, just days after his 26th birthday, Ben Roethlisberger was rewarded with an eight year, 102 million dollar contract, receiving 25 million in a lump-sum signing bonus. At the time, Roethlisberger was quoted as saying “I love Pittsburgh, I love the fans. Got probably the best organization and fans in all of sport. I don't want to go anywhere.” Team chairman Dan Rooney responded “He's a Steeler and he'll always be a Steeler.”
In downtown Pittsburgh where Roethlisberger frequents his favorite watering holes he has earned a reputation for disrespecting bar employees, using public profanity, making lewd remarks, refusing to pay cover charges and in some cases his entire tab. At the Cabana Bar he refused to pay a cover and at the Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille he left without paying his tab and was pursued into the parking lot by an angry waitress where he reconsidered.
The theme in Roethlisberger’s repeated misconduct appears to be entitlement. The former first round pick in the 2004 NFL draft (11th overall) and AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Roethlisberger has been able to live above the law and as long as he continues to win for the Steelers, he may continue benefitting from the long and well-established relationship the Rooneys have with the NFL and Roger Goodell.
At least for now, Ben Roethlisberger, who is known for avoiding sacks and then making big throws down field, remains under center for the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers. In a recent statement apologizing for his violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, he reminded the press that he has not been charged with any crimes...
Ben Roethlisberger has been quoted as saying that he “…wanted to be like the Dan Marinos, like the John Elways, guys who played with one team their whole career.”
He has got a long way to go and a lot to prove if he wants to be mentioned in that elite company (just ask Terry Bradshaw).