The Devil Went Down to Pittsburgh

November 06, 2006

PLEASE ALLOW me to introduce myself.

I am Lou Siffer, agent for a Mr. Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. And I'm coming to you, the fans, for help. Mr. Roethlisberger is in breach of our contract, even though I've held up my end of our bargain.

He stomped into my office two years ago, after he had dropped to the 11th pick in the draft, behind two other quarterbacks—Mr. Manning (the first pick) and Mr. Rivers (the fourth). "I know I'm better than those guys!" he yelled. "And Pittsburgh? The Steelers are pure hell for quarterbacks! They run the ball, dammit !"

My eyebrows arched.

"This is not how my career was supposed to happen!" he moaned. "I mean, I'd give anything to change this!"

"Anything?" I asked.

He spun and looked me right in the eye, slapped his palms on my solid-bone desk and barked, "Anything!"

I punched the intercom. "Miss Jones? Will you kindly bring in the standard contract? It's just like the one in Mr. Tyson's file."

Immediately, the world was his own personal Eden. His coach, Mr. Cowher, started him in just his third game, even though he'd normally rather start a Mafia target's car than a rookie quarterback. In fact, Mr. Roethlisberger went 13--0 in his first year, unheard of in the NFL.

He became the toast of Pittsburgh. More than that, he was the lunch—somebody invented a Roethlis Burger, and the whole city gobbled it up. He began dating a gorgeous pro golfer, Ms. Gulbis. I'd made him a star.

He came to see me again. "This is good," he said, with a demonic gleam in his eye, "but I want it all. "

So, in 2005, I gave it all to him. And as he was being carried off the field—the youngest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl—I yelled up to him, "Happy?"

"Yeah, dude! Thanks for everything!"

"You still have the devil to pay," I mentioned.

And this is when he started to get weaselly.

"You know, Mr. Siffer, I checked with the players' association, and they said that a contract like that isn't legal."

And he disappeared, leaving me very unsatisfied.

Of course, right then and there, I could've sent him swimming for eternity in a river of boiling blood, or had crows gnaw on his head forever, but I didn't. Call me a softy. Besides, I wanted him on my team for a few years, sewing discontent, selfishness and greed. (We're very happy with Mr. Owens on that score.)

So I started with some subtle stuff. You know, gave his cell number to Larry King, put Ben-Gay in his jock, threw a new red shirt in with his whites, things like that.

Still, Mr. Roethlisberger wouldn't come around. So I took it up another notch and had his girl break up with him. And I made sure two of his best teammates—Mr. Bettis and Mr. Randle El—left the team.

Nothing.

Then I lost my temper and tried to kill him. Four months after that Super Bowl, I smashed him and his motorcycle into a Chrysler New Yorker at 40 mph.

But the damned kid lived. And as he lay in critical condition at the hospital, an even worse thing happened: You fans started praying for his soul. I just can't tell you how much that complicates things.

I complained to God while we were playing racquetball one day. Even showed him my signed contract. But He just shrugged and said, "What can I do? People like the guy!"

But Ol' Beelze doesn't quit easy, Bub. Three months later I put a pox on Mr. Roethlisberger's appendix. It nearly burst, but he survived. I had his backup, Mr. Batch, make like Joe Namath, just to spite him. But two weeks later, Mr. Roethlisberger was right back in there. So, I made him start throwing like Marie Antoinette. At one point his passer rating was 34.3. My pet serpent could do a 34.3. The Steelers' record fell to 1--3, but you just kept right on loving him.

Two weeks ago I sent three Falcons to knock him loopier than King George. Mr. Roethlisberger had to be taken off in a cart. Last week I even had him lose to the Raiders. (Al Davis is a friend.)

But he still wouldn't budge.

I'm stuck. I humbly ask for your help. I know it's not easy to have sympathy for the agent, but Mr. Roethlisberger and I had an agreement. Stop bailing him out with your infernal prayers and hope and faith in him. Please?

Or how about a compromise? I won't lodge him forever in a minotaur's colon, but can I at least trade him to Buffalo?

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com.

I made the Steelers' quarterback a star. He went 13--0 in his first year, unheard of in the NFL. He began dating a gorgeous pro golfer. But then he said, "I want it all."

RIFFS of REILLY

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PHOTOPETER READ MILLER

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