This time last year, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was going through the roller coaster of a lifetime. In early March, 2010 the story broke that Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a college student at a local club in Milledgeville, GA. For Ben, it was a nightmare situation to be in. His name was being dragged through the mud, his reputation completely shot to hell, and suddenly it seemed like everyone in the free world was against him if you listened to the main stream media. They did their best to showcase the disgruntled fans more than those trying to stay fair and impartial. Legal experts were brought to much spell out every gloom and doom scenario possible. Through it all though, the Steeler organization never wavered in their support of Ben, they never threatened to trade him or release him, regardless of what the media was portraying. They did make it abundantly clear though that they did not approve of his actions and were disappointed in the decisions he’s made in his life recently. Steeler players are held to a higher standard, it’s just the hand you’re dealt when you put on the black ‘n gold uniform. The Rooney’s are the classiest and most respected owners in all of professional sports. They take their image very seriously and as a player you are expected to do the same. Potentially tarnishing the image that has been built since the team was bought by Art Rooney Sr. back in 1933 is not something they take lightly. The Rooney’s needed to make sure that Ben got out of the spotlight, dealt with the allegations, and then see to it that he learns from his actions.
Roethlisberger never passed the buck, never tried to lie about his intentions or what happened. He stuck to his guns throughout the process, realizing that it would take time for the fans to accept him back. Talk shows of all types were flooded with fans showing their displeasure in Ben, some even saying they didn’t want him to play anymore, period. Roethlisberger took it all in stride, staying cool and not pressing the issue. After commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the 6 game suspension, Ben still never wavered. The Steelers organization stood by Ben making sure that he was going to his counseling and supporting him in every way they could. Tomlin kept his cool and refused to indulge the media’s inquiries on a daily basis. He went about his business of running the team and preparing with what he had available to him. Never wasting time with “oh I wish Ben were here” or “We’ll be hurting without Ben on this team”. In the end it was that calm, cool, demeanor that was instrumental in helping the Steelers prepare for life without Ben to start the season. His teammates vocalized repeatedly that they were in his corner and made sure they didn’t add any fuel to the media’s fire. They made their feelings clear that they knew Ben made a mistake but they never threw him under the bus and added to the fire.
Eventually Goodell lowered Ben’s suspension to 4 games,and the Steelers responded by going 3-1 to start out the year. Ben came back and when he took the field the fans at Heinz, the Steeler Nation cheered, just grateful to have their player back again, and life went on. Sure it may not have ended as well as we all wanted, losing the Super Bowl, but considering how bad the offseason was I would say it turned out to be a pretty successful year.
Speed up to present day, and all the focus is on the CBA or lack thereof. For Ben Roethlisberger though, he has to be feeling better right now in 2011 than at any point last summer. Right now he’s focusing on his upcoming wedding to Ashley Harlan this July, and even though there is no NFL right now for anyone, Ben has made it clear that he couldn’t be happier with his life. He’s out of the spotlight (as much as a guy like Ben can be), his suspension long behind him and the love of his life is by his side. Gone are the endless hours of talk show banter about what Ben should do, what the Steelers will do at quarterback, and how Ben needs to grow up and be accountable. No more countless articles from “experts” speculating on court proceedings and what not.
Personally, considering how bad things are right now between the players and the NFL, I’m pretty content just having our Steelers out of the limelight and getting back to flying under the radar.