6 Weeks

How Goddamn ironic is that phrase over his shoulder? Fuck...

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...


This Week Sucked

I don't know how you feel, but fuck this week.

Sunday night: Santonio abruptly shipped to the Jets for a hair on Rex Ryan's ass.

Monday: No charges pressed against Ben Roethlisberger, but there are enough lingering holes in the case that everyone who wants to believe Roethlisberger is guilty is free to believe that all parties have been paid off in some way. Of course, had the accuser been paid off, she probably wouldn't have maintained in her letter to investigators that she still claims that something bad happened that night.

Tuesday: Every fucking moron on the Internet falls for the obviously bullshit claims of a lawyer on a Boston radio station saying that he investigated another accusation of sexual assault. He of course recants by the end of the day.

Wednesday: Penguins lose Game 1.

Thursday: The Rooneys announce impending punishment for Roethlisberger following the draft, even though according to the authorities, he's done nothing wrong. The media has the claims of one side from the police report and will play up the lurid details of their version of events until both the league and the Steelers give the media satisfaction. Hines Ward announces that he plans to retire if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, though the way things are going, I wouldn't hold your breath.

Friday: Nothing as of yet, but the day is young. You might not want to leave your homes until Sunday.

4/11-4/17: A week so fraught with despair and turmoil that it actually forced me to post on this blog again. Never forget!


Willie Parker Considered

Late last week, the extremely tepid Willie Parker sweepstakes were finally settled when the running back signed an incentive-laden deal with the Washington Redskins. There were slight rumblings that Parker could return to the Steelers in a backup capacity, but even by his own admission, that didn't really seem like something he wanted to do. For most of us, it's been assumed Parker would be gone as early as late in the '08 season.

Fan bases often have crotchety and bizarre reasons (see: Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia) for not embracing certain players. In the case of Willie Parker in Pittsburgh, it was not being a 240-pound power back. There are very few teams where this would be an issue, but the Steelers are one of them. Decades of shitty quarterback play conditioned fans to think the only way to win was by churning down the field with 16-play drives, maybe gaining five yards at a clip. Even the media still buys into this orthodoxy when discussing the Steelers, despite the team not really subscribing to that identity for most of the past decade.

It was this rigidity of philosophy that made it difficult for Parker to raise to becoming a truly beloved figure, even though he certainly did enough to earn a healthy deal of affection. After all, FWP is the third-leading rusher in franchise history and holds the longest run in Super Bowl history. He was the starting back on two championship teams. But a large segment of Steelers fans never felt a tenth of the affection for him that they did for Jerome Bettis.

To an extent, that's understandable. Bettis is possibly a first ballot Hall of Famer. He was the team's signature star for a decade. But had FWP's career not been diminished by the broken fibula late in 2007, and the knee issues that followed, it's not inconceivable that he could have rivaled Bettis' career numbers with the team.

Jerome Bettis' best three-year span with the Steelers

'96 -- 1,431 rushing yards, 11 total TDs
'97 -- 1,665 yards, 9 TDs
'98 -- 1,185 yards, 3 TDs
4,281 yards, 23 TDs 4.23 YPC

Willie Parker's three years prior to injury

'05 -- 1,202 yards, 5 TDs
'06 -- 1,494 yards, 16 TDs
'07 -- 1,316 yards, 2 TDs
4,012 yards, 23 TDs 4.39 YPC

There's no denying that those are remarkably similar totals. Obviously, the Bus had considerably better career longevity and consistency. And you could reasonably argue that offenses for which Bettis put up those numbers didn't have the deep passing threat that the Steelers had during FWP's heyday. Still, before injuries significantly hampered his career, Parker assumed the mantle of Steelers feature back quite impressively (much better than Amos Zereoue and Richard Huntley, at least), even if there were plenty of folks unwilling to embrace him because he didn't truck defenders and generally do everything the Bus did.

Granted, during his first year or so as a starter, Willie wasn't the most disciplined rusher in the world. He'd hit the line before a hole had a chance to develop. He was (and still is) pretty terrible at catching the ball, though Bettis didn't exactly light up the world with his receiving skills out of the backfield either.

I wouldn't rule out the possibility that Parker could still be a decent contributor for the 'Skins, so long as they can cobble together even a workable offensive live. It might not work out that way, but I think we could stand to appreciate the brief span where FWP put up one of the two best three-year spans in the history of the franchise.