ShareThis Page

Harris: Ben must sell himself to Steelers

| Friday, April 16, 2010

The easy part was determining that Ben Roethlisberger needs to be punished.

The hard part is pulling the trigger.

The fallout from Georgia reverberated throughout the country.

"In terms of the team's image, certainly, I feel like we've taken a hit," Steelers president Art Rooney II said at a news conference Thursday.

The Steelers now have to hear about how Roethlisberger, despite not being charged with a crime, failed to uphold the franchise's proud tradition. And how the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes but are letting Roethlisberger off the hook. And how punishing the black player and treading lightly with the white player could have racial overtones on a team whose roster is predominately black.

The Steelers also have to listen to questions about why it's taking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell so long to punish Roethlisberger and whether Goodell is going to deflect that responsibility to the Steelers, which Rooney said appears likely.

Yesterday was about damage control on the South Side.

"We believe that each of our players not only has a responsibility to live up to the highest standards on the field but also to equally high standards off the field," Rooney read from a prepared statement. "Receiving the support of Pittsburgh Steelers fans all over the world is something that must be earned."

Roethlisberger is one of the most famous athletes of his generation, but he blew it. The Steelers have determined Roethlisberger has to pay for even the appearance of inappropriate behavior.

Team officials made it clear how they feel about Roethlisberger on Monday when he read a prepared statement in front of his locker instead of the Steelers' logo.

By himself.

Yesterday, Rooney stood in front of the team logo and placed full blame on Roethlisberger.

"I have made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards," Rooney said. "After imposing an appropriate level of discipline and outlining the steps we feel will be necessary to be successful as a player and a person, we intend to allow Ben the opportunity to prove to us he is the teammate and citizen we all believe he is capable of being."

Rooney did not indicate whether the punishment will be a suspension or a fine. What's significant is that, for the first time, someone in the Steelers' hierarchy yanked Roethlisberger off his high horse.

It's a whole new world for Roethlisberger, who had to convince his bosses to let him participate in voluntary practices.

"We allowed Ben to do this after we were convinced he was sincerely contrite for his behavior," Rooney said.

The quarterback who won two Super Bowls before the age of 27 and is among the highest-paid players in sports had to sell himself to his employer. Imagine that.

That may have hurt Roethlisberger — who's accustomed to getting what he wants — more than the allegation of sexual assault.

Maybe that's part of the punishment, to make Roethlisberger beg for his job.

"It's a situation where we're giving Ben an opportunity to regain respect. We felt like we wanted to make sure we had Ben's commitment," said Rooney, who emphasized the Steelers haven't engaged in trade talks regarding Roethlisberger.


Rooney didn't dismiss the idea that Roethlisberger could be traded.

"At this point, we have not discussed trade with any other club," he said.

Rooney said "multiple violations" resulted in Holmes' trade to the New York Jets.

Choosing between Roethlisberger and Holmes is like splitting hairs — except that No. 7 is on a longer leash.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.