"I'm a pretty hardcore Steelers fan (and father of 2 young daughters). I'm done with this team as long as Ben is a part of it.''--@MarcMick, Steeler follower Marc Mickiewicz, in a Twitter message to me this morning at 8:51.
You're not alone, Marc. There's dissatisfaction all over Steeler Nation, about Ben Roethlisberger's serial immaturity, Santonio Holmes' substance abuse and Jeff Reed's off-field antics. Right now, Roethlisberger is the target of most of the anger. I read it on Twitter and in direct e-mails to me and hear it from Steeler fans I've encountered in the past month. It's an epidemic. The good thing, I think, is that Steeler brass feels the same way. Ace beat man Ed Bouchette, in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reports that Steelers president Art Rooney II was furious when he watched the Georgia district attorney detail Roethlisberger's sordid night of boozing with underage girls and the furtive dalliance that created the latest firestorm around the Steelers' franchise quarterback.
I'm not sure who's going to suspend Roethlisberger to start his NFL season -- I suspect it will be the Steelers who will sit him for conduct detrimental to the team for a game or two -- but there's no question he needs to be suspended, though he's been formally charged with nothing. Make no mistake -- he's done plenty wrong, even if it's just as the prosecutor detailed Monday: drinking way too much, then plying underage girls with alcohol until one of them was overly intoxicated and he followed her down a dark hall, and bodyguards got in the way, and no one but the two participants is certain what happened next. Whatever it is, it's beyond bad judgment.
The Steelers, rightfully, are ashamed. Roethlisberger over the past nine months has brought that shame on the team himself, twice, and he deserves to pay for it with two games off. Without pay. Or, better yet, with the pay donated to Pittsburgh-area women's shelters.
And by the way, I would have liked to hear a little more I-screwed-up in Roethlisberger's statement Monday night. Whoever crafted that thing, here's a nugget: Who gives a darn about Big Ben being "more determined than ever to have a great season'' on a day he should be solely concerned with telling the world what a knucklehead he's been and that it will never, ever happen again?
The next step for Roethlisberger comes today, when he's summoned to the principal's office to get rapped on the knuckles. When Roethlisberger walks into his meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, I expect he'll hear words from Goodell to the effect of: "Ben, you've embarrassed yourself, you've embarrassed your family, you've embarrassed a family that's a pillar of this league -- the Rooneys. And you've tarnished the shield.''
The commish will be right. The best thing that came from the Georgia district attorney who declined to prosecute the case Monday was Fred Bright's point about what he'd say to Roethlisberger if he were his son, and his son had done this: "Grow up. Come on, you're supposed to stand for something.''
He should have two September Sundays to think about it, without football getting in the way.
Now for your e-mail:
• THE ROONEYS SHOULD THINK ABOUT THIS. From Mark Pence of Pittsburgh: "Regarding the upstanding Steelers, how has the organization handled Jeff Reed's off-field incidents? Has he been suspended by the team? Or was he rewarded with the franchise tag and the contract that it carries? And what about James Harrison? Didn't the organization overlook Najeh Davenport's off-field transgressions when they needed help at running back? Weren't there warning flags about Santonio Holmes before the draft that the organization chose to ignore? Didn't they give him numerous chances, until he was facing a league suspension and in the final year of his contract? And THEN they trade him? To say the Steelers are 'upstanding' is a bit of a stretch. They're no different than any other team -- if it's convenient, and necessary, they'll keep a player.''
Absolutely, totally true. Great e-mail, Mark.
• DIGGING DEEP. From Dave of Methuen, Mass.: "With all of the visits to NFL team facilities that a draft choice takes prior to the draft, do you believe that coaches from time to time would work out a player not because they have interest in him but instead to identify his weaknesses/shortfalls in preparation for seeing them on the opposite side of the field in the fall? I would think some coaches (e.g. Bill Belichick) would love to work out a first-rounder with their private drills in order for him to game plan against him in the fall. Coaches love to have an edge, no matter how slight it is.''
I don't think so. I think it's more likely that they interview and poke and prod for three reasons: to see if he'd be a good fit with the team, to smokescreen other teams particularly with high draft choices to keep others guessing about their true interests, and to file thoughts on players away for the day when they might be able to pick them up on waivers or trade for them.
• HIGHLY UNLIKELY. From Michael Bruno of Pennington, N.J.: "Will Andy Reid join Mike Holmgren in Cleveland after this year?''
Three things would have to occur. One: The Eagles would have to have a disastrous year. Two: Kevin Kolb would have to be an abject failure. Three: Cleveland would have to stink, and Holmgren would have to conclude that Eric Mangini is not the man for the team. Now, there's one other problem with your scenario: GM Tom Heckert left Philly, where Reid has final authority, to be a true general manager in Cleveland. I'm not sure what the wording is in Heckert's contract, but I doubt Holmgren could bring in Reid and give him the same authority he had in Philadelphia.
• THE HAYNESWORTH GAME. From James of Rochester, N.Y.: "How do you see the Albert Haynesworth vs. Mike Shanahan faceoff playing out? Personally, I'd love an early 2nd round pick or a starting caliber 3-4 NT for Haynesworth. And as far as the money that's already been paid to Albert, it's gone. Keeping him around would just be throwing good money after bad to me.''
All good points, but I think if a team like Tennessee (which is interested, I can tell you that with certainty) wants to pursue Haynesworth, it would have to find good compensation to offer Washington. I doubt a second-round pick this year is good enough. My gut feeling is Washington will keep Haynesworth this year, experiment with him on the nose early, and if it doesn't work, use another player on the nose and use Haynesworth as a 3-technique tackle to get to the quarterback on second and third downs.
• THANK YOU. From Steve of Plano, Texas: "I love your thought of Jerry [Jones] trading his second-round pick to Baltimore for Jared Gaither. Any chance of that happening?''
I doubt it. Teams, as usual, are over-valuing draft picks as D-day gets closer. But you know it and I know it: The Cowboys should do this deal eight days a week.
• ONE MORE COWBOYS INQUIRY. From David of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: "So Akwasi Owusu-Ansah looks like a guy Jerry Jones might covet. He would help in the return game and might be a real asset at safety, both areas I know he has talked about improving. How early do you think he might have to move on him?''
Gut feeling is Owusu-Ansah will be picked somewhere between 80 and 110, probably late in the third, early fourth.
• ABOUT THAT FOOLING AROUND IN THE BATTER'S BOX. From Garrett Grant of Calgary, Alberta: "The twitching that so many batters do reminds me of Sergio Garcia a number of years ago. The amount of twitching and resetting he did before he hit a shot got to the point of insanity, and I believe the PGA finally told him enough was enough as he was delaying the game. Thing is, he went away and fixed it, so one would ask why can't MLB hitters be requested to do the same? Nomar Garciaparra's gyrations were well-known, but no one ever asked him to stop, did they?''
No, but I'm with you. MLB has to get to players, and to the players union, and tell them enough is enough. Get in the box and hit.