Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The bells toll for thee, Big Ben

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The Pittsburgh Steelers won't win another Super Bowl under Ben Roethlisberger and that more than anything else is reason for the club to unload him as soon as possible.

Forget the fact Steelers fans are struggling to cheer for a club quarterbacked by a man who has twice been accused of rape. While that may have been enough for the Steelers to act in the past it appears winning is management's only motivation these days and under that umbrella it's time to say bye-bye Ben.

To expect every NFL player on every team to live up to any standard of conduct is laughable. It's not happening now, hasn't in the past and won't in the future. So throw that off the table.

The only issue is whether Pittsburgh can win with Roethlisberger as its offensive centrepiece; that answer is no.

The Steelers would be wise to look for a deal a month or so from now, when the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback isn't glowing with his toxicity and has regained some of his once estimable market value.

Only then will the club begin to rebuild and put itself on the road to a seventh Super Bowl title. Until then, with Roethlisberger in the stable, Pittsburgh is in championship purgatory.

At one point his talent was enough to make teammates look the other way but now Roethlisberger is just a problem. A problem that will drag the rest of the club down until resolved.

Roethlisberger will miss as many as six games this season and that puts the entire team's season in jeopardy. In the NFL, where an average career spans just over three seasons, having a player's off-season stupidity rub out an entire campaign is not forgivable.

Factor in the quarterback's already battered body and the unlikely odds of him adding a third Super Bowl ring to his collection and the Steelers would be wise to strike now and collect as many draft picks and players as they can.

Trouble

Only Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman have more than two Super Bowl wins among quarterbacks and even the most devout Steelers fans would have trouble mounting an argument to include Roethlisberger in that grouping. When asking the question, will Ben win again, his off-field issues aside, the conclusion is no.

Big Ben's credibility factor amongst his peers in Pittsburgh was shaky at best to begin with and it's now at an all-time low. Don't be fooled by his statement on Monday and his assertion that he broke no law and only fell short on the values his family raised him up on.

The fact Roethlisberger is not appealing his six-game suspension and the near $3 million in lost salary tells you everything you need to know.

The NFL employs former FBI agents to handle its security and the dossier they have on Roethlisberger in regards to his misconduct gave commissioner Roger Goodell the confidence to slap the quarterback with a major ban despite no legal charges.

Roethlisberger has never been much of a leader and now he's slipped off that page entirely. Maybe he can rebound and maybe there's another title in his arm. But we doubt it. His window has closed in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger deserves a second chance. We all do.

But the Steelers shouldn't hamstring themselves trying to give Roethlisberger redemption. No, they should move on.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2010 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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