Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Ben or Not to Ben? Steelers Nation waits

"Make a Hole Make it Wide"

OK, it's Big Poppa's draft and what does he do? Trade his $100 million dollar franchise quarterback and move up the draft order or does he stick with his original draft board? Yes, Big Poppa is gonna shy away from politics for a moment and talk, well politics of the National Football League, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation.

The National Football League takes serious consideration when it comes to the newest additions to their 32 team league. Rookies go through a week long symposium, usually somewhere, as in 2009, with beautiful weather like Palm Beach, Florida. A large majority of these rookies were treated like gods on their college campuses for four years by the fans, student body, and boosters. Some rookies might be mature beyond their age with thoughts of post football careers in mind and some might be immature self-centered egomaniacs about to sign large money contracts to get all the women, all the money and all the cars.

During symposium week, about 256 rookies will sit through hours upon hours of seminars from current and former players, financial management gurus, and media relations experts. Some former players may talk about how they made horrible financial decisions because they wanted to help everyone from family to childhood friends. Some current players may talk about how intense the local media can be and how to act professional among any situation. But one driving force behind this symposium is that the rookies understand what they are about to get into, what to expect, how they can handle it, and that they not only represent the NFL, but they also represent the fans and the city that has now become their adopted family.

But what happens after the symposium, after say that player's second or third year and they are extremely successful on the field. In this case, we are talking about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisbberger was drafted in 2004 and by game #3 of his rookie season he became the team's starting quarterback. Success came fast and furious. The Steelers Nation, those loyal Steelers fans through good and bad, casted a god-like image of Roethlisberger after his successful rookie campaign that led to a loss in the conference title game. One game away from the Super Bowl as a rookie quarterback for a legendary team, oh how the head can swell.

There is no doubt the Steelers Nation is the most loyal of any fan in any sport. Sure there's the "Black Hole" to describe the Oakland Raiders loyalists, or the "Dawg Pound" for the Cleveland Browns. These are fans that bleed their team colors, talk about the last game or upcoming season dawn to dusk and there is one thing you do not do to them and that's piss them off. You do not disgrace the team, the players, and most certainly not the fans.

The Steelers Nation has been a buzz for about two weeks now on whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers, better yet the Rooney's should trade Ben Roethlisberger for his last misguided immature behavior. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger was not found guilty of sexual assault of a 20 year old college student in Millegdeville, Georgia. He was not convicted of any crime and DA Fredric Bright even said "we do not prosecute on morals, only on crime." However, as DA Bright explained to full detail of what happened in that 5'x5' employee bathroom, he pretty much convicted Roethlisberger of sexual assault to the Steelers Nation. In a sad sense, as O.J. Simpson was cleared of murder with; "We found blood in your Ford Bronco, we found bloody footsteps from the Ford Bronco to your porch, we found bloody gloves and clothing in your laundry room, but we cannot convict you because we cannot link the evidence to Mr. Simpson."

Just as in the O.J. Simpson case, you can chalk the current Roethlisberger sexual assault charge up to shabby police work. Millegdeville Police let the janitor clean the employee bathroom before they gathered any evidence, let patrons leave the area after the college student and her friends chased down the closest officer to file charges of rape, and the unprofessional manner of Officer Jerry Blash towards the alleged victim.

The Steelers Nation is now split over the actions of Ben Roethlisberger. Some are calling for the Steelers to trade or cut the star quarterback while others are accepting the 4-6 game suspension as sufficient due to policy. Many of those calling for Roethlisberger's ouster may also be the very same crying if the Steelers go 5-11 and miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

The Steelers have to look at this as a complete business transaction. Roethlisberger is damaged goods right now, and trading him to another team will get very little in return. First, Roethlisberger's suspension began when Commissioner Roger Goodell announced it on April 21, so Roethlisberger cannot even attend team activities till summer training camp this July. Secondly, Roethlisberger's monster contract would go with him to whatever team that may trade for him. Roethlisberger signed an 8 year deal worth $102 million. He was paid $12.75 million in 2009, so that's close to $4.8 million sitting on the bench for first six games of 2010.

Hypothetically, if Roethlisberger is traded, say to the Buffalo Bills, what is the return value? The Buffalo Bills have the #9 pick in the 2010 draft, do the Steelers deal for that pick and swap starting quarterbacks? The Bills current starter is Trent Edwards, who threw for little over 1,100 yards with a QB rating of 73.8%. In comparison, Roethlisberger completed over 4,300 yards with a 100.5 QB rating. That does not even come close. However there are teams such as the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks in the trade rumor mill as well, all looking for quarterback help and higher in the draft order.

Also, if the Steelers do plan on trading Roethlisberger, will the team and the fans have to endure more years of sub par season and wallow in mediocrity? Two decades of poor performance from the list of Neil O'Donnell, Mike Tomszcak, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox. At least O'Donnell was able to quarterback the team to Super Bowl XXX, albeit the team's only Super Bowl loss in 7 visits.

The Steelers Nation demands loyalty from their team. They put the team and players on pedestals, like Greek gods. They buy merchandise of foam helmets, Terrible Towels, expansive jerseys, etc.. How many in Steelers Nation are burning their $200 authentic Ben Roethlisberger jersey tonight?

For Big Poppa, my conclusion in this matter is simple; beginning today, the Steelers need to place Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich at the #1 QB position. The team needs to know who its leader is until Roethlisberger is able to return. And his return to the field after his suspension is when the Rooney's say it's so, not Steelers Nation or Coach Tomlin feel is necessary

Loyalty, ain't it a kick in the ass (or checkbook?)

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