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Poll: Roethlisberger's scandals still linger with some fans

| Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010

Ten months after a Georgia student claimed Ben Roethlisberger raped her, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review poll finds that a fourth of local fans dislike him.

But 54 percent of Western Pennsylvania residents hold a "favorable" opinion of the Steelers' quarterback, according to the Dec. 21-22 telephone survey conducted by Susquehanna Polling & Research in Harrisburg. The poll's margin of error was 3.24 percent.

After a night of drinking in bars in Milledgeville, Ga., a 20-year-old accused Roethlisberger on March 5 of assaulting her in a restroom. Lacking evidence of a crime, investigators condemned his boorish behavior but punted on prosecuting him. That left National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Roethlisberger for four games.

A separate lawsuit is pending in Nevada, where a woman claims Roethlisberger raped her.

An April poll by the Trib found 22 percent of fans despised No. 7 enough to trade him. Most others wanted the NFL to suspend him.

"In April, most people thought that NFL punishment was appropriate, but they also said, 'Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater and trade him,' " said James Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling. "Today, you have about the same number of people who can live with him and about one out of four who can't."

Roethlisberger was unavailable for comment, and his agent, Ryan Tollner, didn't return telephone calls.

In the latest poll of 915 adults in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, 57 percent of men and 52 percent of women said they like Roethlisberger. And with the Steelers roaring into the playoffs and Big Ben staying off police blotters, a third of respondents said their opinion of him has improved.

"A lot of guys did worse than he did," said Baldo Long, 78, of Delmont, who pointed out that Roethlisberger wasn't convicted of a crime.

Nearly a quarter of those polled, however, keep waving a terrible scowl, saying Roethlisberger is "more unfavorable" to them since he returned to the team.

"He's a bum," said Greg Byrne, 64, of Jefferson Hills. "You know that country and western song, 'White Trash with Money'• That's what I think of him. He's white trash with money. They should've dumped him like they did Santonio Holmes."

The Steelers shipped Holmes to the New York Jets on April 11, following allegations that the receiver threw a glass at a woman in a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Fayette County fans support Roethlisberger the most — 72 percent of those surveyed said they like him — but people in Beaver County like him the least, with 29 percent of those polled harboring bad feelings for the two-time Super Bowl champ.

Age appeared to be a factor: Fewer than half of fans between 30 and 44 years old held a "favorable" opinion of Roethlisberger, but 64 percent of those over age 60 did. Contacted by the Trib, older fans seemed to forgive Roethlisberger when he appeared to reform his bad boy immaturity.

"At first, I thought he acted like a spoiled brat," said Audrey Gray, 77, of Salem in Westmoreland County. "But I think that he's learned his lesson. He's trying very hard."

About one in five fans formed no opinion about Roethlisberger, and 45 percent said their view of him hasn't shifted one way or the other since April.

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