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Poll respondents say minds aren't changed about Roethlisberger

Brian Vokes is a self-proclaimed diehard Steelers fan. At 42, he has seen the highs and lows of one of the National Football League's storied franchises.

He can easily forgive insufferable and embarrassing defeats. But the Cranberry resident, like many other Steelers fans the Tribune-Review contacted yesterday, isn't as forgiving of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's off-field behavior.

In a statement issued yesterday, Roethlisberger said he is "sorry to let down my teammates and the entire Steelers fan base," following a six-game suspension NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed him last week for a March 5 incident in Milledgeville, Ga., in which a college student accused him of raping her in a nightclub restroom.

"I am disappointed that I have reached this point and will not put myself in this situation again," Roethlisberger said in a statement the Steelers released.

Roethlisberger avoided criminal charges in Georgia. But he faces a civil lawsuit involving a rape accusation from a 2008 incident at a casino in Lake Tahoe, Nev. The lawsuit is being delayed because the state Supreme Court is considering a change of venue.

Vokes said Roethlisberger's statement failed to dissuade him that the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback didn't warrant the six-game suspension.

Vokes was among 61 percent of respondents in a Tribune-Review poll who said Roethlisberger should have been suspended or fined. In that poll, 23 percent said the Steelers should trade Roethlisberger.

"He's had weeks to have somebody draw up this statement," Vokes said. "... He should have been traded. This is all he can say. He's hasn't been charged with anything, but he's done something. I think back in the day, people did this all the time, but he's in such a big spotlight now that they can't do this stuff.''

Isabel Larkin of Irwin and Janet Ziots of Fairbank in Fayette County, who also took part in the poll, said Roethlisberger's statement didn't persuade them of his innocence.

"I don't believe him. I don't believe he didn't do anything wrong," Larkin said. "I just don't know what he can say to make it better."

Ziots said she would have preferred Roethlisberger say nothing.

"It's a little bit late for apologies," she said. "I think he should keep his mouth closed because he got off easy. Why doesn't he grow up?"

Of eight women contacted, only one said Roethlisberger's statement was sufficient. Most, like Diane Plavchak of Pittsburgh, said only Roethlisberger's actions matter.

"It doesn't satisfy me, because it's not the statement but his actions that will speak more clearly than his words," Plavchak said. "I think he made a statement after the last incident (involving the Nevada civil case)."

Plavchak, too, thinks the Steelers should have traded Roethlisberger before or during last week's NFL Draft.

"I think the window to trading him has closed," she said. "The Steelers lost of lot of their options once the draft was over. We are stuck with babysitting him and watching his actions. If he does it again, it'll be his last strike."

Despite skepticism from many fans, Roethlisberger satisfied a few with his statement.

"As long he accepts responsibility for it, it's more than enough," said James J. Jones of Shaler. "He's got to do what (the NFL and Steelers) ask of him. Anybody can make a mistake, and if he's willing to rectify that, it's fine with me."

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