Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended from play in the 2010-2011 season for 6 games conditional on his behavior. Of course, before the announcement was even made official, people were clogging the interwebs decrying the fact that Pittsburgh's schedule is soft or at the very least, calculated. Granted, The Steelers' first six weeks give them a four non-playoff teams from last year and a bye week. All five games will be at 1pm and NOT the default national game. Baltimore in week 4 figures to be our only real challenge (a home one at that) and we all recall how close Dennis Dixon got us to a road win against them.
Now the suspension. I do not and will not engage anyone in discussion about Ben Roethlisberger's behavior off the field going forward. With anyone. This is largely because I, along with a certain district attorney in Georgia, do not have enough information on the subject to form an informed decision on the matter. I do not know what happened that night. While I HATE having to take the "Well-OJ-wasn't-convicted-so-he-should-be-treated-as-such" road on this thing, I suppose some derivation of that is where I stand. Grasping for some semblance of a moral hold, likely rationalizing the actions of a drunken oaf. Listen, I'm no moralist, if I were a hot-shot NFL starting QB I'd likely be "enjoying the fruits of my labor." Within reason. But, some day, some shithead Ravens fan is going to spout off about this and I'm going to feel compelled to start in with "Yea, but he was never convicted..." And that is why I am not happy with my quarterback. Why I'll wear my Bettis, Polamalu and Randle El jerseys (yea, I still had it in my closet) this season.
But what truly confuses me is how Mr. Goodell can assert that the situation, as we know it, warrants such a suspension. HERE is the NFL's conduct policy, which The Commissioner stated Roethlisberger violated. Notice words like "crime" and "criminal activity" littered throughout the policy. One would think that a perpetrator would have to be CONVICTED of a crime to be considered a criminal, no? However, the paragraph three phrase is where Goodell must be hanging his proverbial hat:
"It will be considered conduct detrimental for Covered Persons to engage in (or to aid, abet or conspire to engage in or to incite) violent and/or criminal activity."
I'm no lawyer, thank The Christ (snidely looking at you, Florio), but I suppose the grey area offered by those specific words afford The NFL the latitude to do things like investigate the situation independently and even determine the INTENT of Ben's actions in the alleged incident. I dunno, seems less than stable footing for a suspension to me.
Listen, to say this entire situation has been a "downer" for your average Steeler fan is a gross understatement. The idea that our franchise signal-caller, however talented, will now forever be associated with off-field malfeasance (and gross haircuts) is a strike to the very core of many a grizzled yinzer. I would not call us an arrogant fan base for the most part, but I would say that pride is derived from the fact that our owners evaluate character as well as 40 times when acquiring players. That being a Steeler and a Steeler Fan meant being a cut above. We have long pointed fingers at players who had tangles with the legal system, were known for poor decision-making and operated in the grey area of "if not guilty, innocent." Now our most well-known player shares a lawyer with some of them.
UPDATE: Schefter now reporting Steelers are trying to deal Ben for a high first rounder. I guess The Rooneys figure THAT'S the best way to put this behind us? Either way, talk about a benchmark moment for the franchise...