Steelers QB Big Ben sidesteps discipline talk
Ben Roethlisberger treaded carefully when the NFL's personal conduct policy was broached Tuesday.
But when asked if he has any issues with how commissioner Roger Goodell metes out punishment for players that sully the league's image, the Steelers quarterback said, "As delicately as I can say it, yes. Maybe at some point in my career I'll speak up more on it, but as of right now I'll just say yeah."
The NFL's personal conduct policy has been a hot-button issue for Steelers players since the lockout ended in late July — they contend Goodell has too much power — but Roethlisberger has remained quiet on the topic.
Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first six games of the 2010 season for violating the personal conduct policy. The suspension, later reduced to four games for good behavior, came after Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault for the second time during a nine-month span.
Roethlisberger was not charged in either incident, and Goodell's handling of New England defensive end Albert Haynesworth has led to renewed criticism of his being inconsistent when punishing wayward players.
Haynesworth pleaded no contest to simple assault last week, stemming from an incident in which he allegedly touched a waitress in an inappropriate manner. ESPN reported that Haynesworth will not be suspended by Goodell, though a league spokesman said yesterday the matter is still under review.
Goodell determines the punishment for players who get into trouble off the field. He also hears all appeals.
"I would have to tend to think that every Fortune 500 company in the world has a board of directors, checks and balances and things like that, and we feel like this should, too," Roethlisberger said in an exclusive interview with the Tribune-Review. "Obviously, we all have an issue with it."
Safety Ryan Clark, the team's player representative and an outspoken critic of Goodell, said the union wanted a system with more checks and balances when negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. But, he said, that was one of the concessions made so the two sides could get a deal done and end the lockout.
"Clearly, we can't dwell on the past and what's happened to people here," Clark said, "so you just try and move forward and not be that team, not be those guys constantly complaining about it but do something proactive about it and do the right things off the field."
Roethlisberger, one of the more frequently sacked quarterbacks in the NFL, also was careful in criticizing rules designed to protect quarterbacks. There is a perception in the locker room that Roethlisberger doesn't get the same protective treatment as, say, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
"It's a sensitive subject," he said. "We've had many behind closed doors discussions between me and coach (Mike Tomlin). It's hard because you want to be treated like the other guys, but there are so many plays that happen when, like last week my helmet gets ripped off but I'm not down.
"I know the new rule says (when) the helmet comes off, you've got to stop, which I'm fine with, I didn't complain. It's hard to complain sometimes, and then not. To me, I just wish it would be fair that if I'm on the ground, guys (are flagged if they) are hitting me or if guys go low on me. Those kind of things I wish it would be fair. But you don't have to blow the whistle if a guy just has a hold of my jersey. Just keep it fair, so I don't get ridiculously punished and hurt."
Next week, Roethlisberger will learn whether he will serve as a team captain after a one-year hiatus.
Roethlisberger was named an offensive co-captain in 2009 but was bypassed last season, perhaps because of his suspension. Wide receiver Hines Ward and tight end Heath Miller were the Steelers' offensive captains in 2010.
"I always vote for Hines and Heath, and I think Willie Colon is a candidate," Roethlisberger said. "If I'm not voted (a captain), it's not going to hurt my feelings at all because we've got many guys that are capable and should be captains.
"Obviously it's an awesome honor, but if I am a captain or not, I'm still going to be a leader and try to help these guys however I can — and this team."