It’s hard here in Baltimore to ever make an objective comment or observation about a member of the Steelers, but I’m very capable of doing it because (*ahem*) I’m a professional.
So I will.
A day after a Georgia district attorney announced that no charges would be filed against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, the big man was in New York this afternoon to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Lots of folks will be clamoring for a suspension for Big Ben.
Honestly, that would be harsh, particularly in light of the fact that no charges were filed against him in Georgia.
What happened in Georgia is anyone’s guess, but it’s fairly clear that Ben and his gang of friends went out on the town, had too much to drink and ran into a bunch of girls who were also out getting their groove on. Apparently Ben and one of the young ladies took their passion into the bathroom at one of the watering holes they were visiting. It then becomes, as it often does, a case of “he said, she said”.
In America, you either press charges and move forward with your case or you decide not to press charges and you then lose the right to bellyache after the fact about being mistreated — either by the alleged aggressor or the judicial system.
Such was the case when the young woman involved threw in the towel and elected not to pursue the case.
But Goodell is still obligated to at least have a conversation with Roethlisberger about the situation. And because Ben has now been involved in two high-profile “he said, she said” cases that involve supposed sexual misconduct, it’s probably a good idea for the Commissioner to have a sit down with the Steelers QB and get to the bottom of his behavioral issues.
And he did that today.
I can only assume Roethlisberger’s not going to be suspended. How can you suspend a guy when he hasn’t really been put on trial for any kind of criminal misconduct and he hasn’t violated any of the league’s substance abuse policies? Answer: you can’t.
But here’s what I would suggest that Goodell do with Big Ben.
Cut a deal.
With the Commissioner owning a smidgen of leverage in this situation, Goodell should suggest that Big Ben check himself into some kind of alcohol rehabilitation facility.
That’s a very fair trade-off, I’d say.
“Ben, suspending you for four games would probably be on the high side of unfair,” Goodell could say. “And I’m not looking to challenge you legally. But you seemingly have a problem handling your drink. You’ve had two incidents in nearly 12 months that both apparently involve you consuming too much alcohol. If I do a google-search for “Roethlisberger drunk”, I get more pictures than next month’s issue of National Geographic. You’re on the verge of becoming a celebrity drunk, son. Go get some help.”
And if Ben resists, close the door, check his clothes for a wiring device and tell him the truth: “Go off and dry out for 28 days or sit out four games.”
Goodell won’t say it because he’s not allowed to — but I’ll say it (even though I might not be allowed to either) because it’s what I think: Big Ben has all the tell-tale signs of a dude who has a drinking problem.
He should get himself evaluated and, if necessary, treated…and hopefully he doesn’t kill himself or someone else in the meantime.
Suspending Roethlisberger doesn’t really get to the root of the problem. So far, as much as I can tell, Roethlisberger likes to drink and chase women and, if he’s fortunate, have sex with them. He’s not much different than any other 20-something year old man in Canton or Fells Point this Friday night except he’s the quarterback of an NFL team and that team has invested millions and millions of dollars in him. He can’t keep running around getting hammered and jockeying around the bar with a tent pitched in his Levi’s looking for a girl who wants to get sweaty with him. It’s just not cool — for the league, for the Steelers and, for him.
Suspending him because he got drunk and had sex with a girl in a bathroom doesn’t get Ben to stop drinking. It just puts him at odds with the league, both morally and legally.
Getting Roethlisberger to face the reality that alcohol might control him more than it should gets to the root of the problem.
That’s the way I see it, anyway.
Sometimes, the league needs to be more focused on the MAN and not THE PLAYER.
What’s important is to get Roethlisberger whatever help he needs to stop putting himself in position to get the witch-hunt treatment when he goes out on the town. If you’ve noticed, just about anytime he’s in the news, away from the field, booze is involved. Check the internet and you’ll see what I mean.
Goodell has the hammer in this one.
Tell Ben to take a break – you know, of the 28-day variety – and see what that does for his personal life.
I bet it helps.
And I’d bet anything that he needs it.