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Colon defends Roethlisberger after TMZ report

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Feb. 4, 2011

FORT WORTH, Texas — Right tackle Willie Colon has protected Ben Roethlisberger on the football field for years.

On Thursday, Colon came to his quarterback's defense off the field after reported that Roethlisberger and two teammates were partying at a piano bar after curfew two nights earlier.

"We are not 18-year-olds," Colon said. "We made our (1 a.m.) curfew, we were in bed, and we were on time for practice."

Roethlisberger yesterday admitted taking teammates out to dinner and then to watch live music but denied being out past curfew, saying the players were back at the team hotel "way before curfew."

A manager at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar in Forth Worth told the Tribune-Review that Roethlisberger and four offensive linemen showed up about 10 p.m. Tuesday and left shortly before midnight.

"They participated along with the crowd," said the manager, who wished to remain nameless. "Ben was very gracious. He bought the house one round of drinks, took pictures. ... It was a really cool night."

The manager said the Steelers ran up an $800 tab and left a $200 tip.

Roethlisberger also sang Billy Joel's "Piano man" with the bar's entertainers.

Can Roethlisberger carry a tune?

"He's a great quarterback," the manager said, "not a great singer. He's not going to have a singing career. He probably needs to go into broadcasting (after football)."

TMZ posted video of the Steelers players singing with patrons.

Coach Mike Tomlin wondered what the fuss was about.

"I'm not concerned one iota," he said. "It's normal for guys to eat dinner, believe it or not."

Colon routinely hangs out with Roethlisberger and said Tuesday night's dinner and drinks were innocent.

"People are making a big deal out of it," Colon said.

Roethlisberger routinely takes his linemen out to dinner once a week during the season, usually on Thursdays. He said it is a superstition to dine with his linemen on Tuesday of Super Bowl week. Two years ago in Tampa, they went to P.F. Chang's. This year they decided on Angelo's Barbecue two miles from the team hotel.

After dinner, a few players made the trip to Pete's.

"I got on the mic and said 'We are just here to be respectful, no pictures, no autographs' and people were cool," Colon said. "A lot of the times I have to beg (Roethlisberger) to come out, but he won't.

"He is with his family a lot, with his mom and dad a lot, he is with his fiance, he is with people who he loves to be around."

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