The League

Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Not the Rooney way

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Knowing the Rooneys, the way they think, the way they operate, the way they want their players to conduct themselves, it's a fairly safe bet that by the time the 2010 draft finishes up on Saturday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, once the toast of Steel City, simply will be toast as far as the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned.

Never mind that he's won two Super Bowls, that he's moving into the prime of his career or that he's clearly a franchise quarterback still capable of winning championships. His behavior off the field, which resulted in a well-deserved and perhaps even somewhat lenient six-game suspension imposed by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday, might not make some teams even blink, considering his considerable skills.

But the Steelers are just a little different, and have been since Dan Rooney, now the distinguished American ambassador to Ireland, took over from his late father, The Chief, back in the 1970s. When the Steelers talk about picking players with character, they really do mean it. Like every other franchise in the league, they have been known to misjudge some players in the past, but had absolutely no qualms about eventually doing the right thing to correct their mistakes.

In 2005, for example, the team parted ways with disgruntled wide receiver Plaxico Burress, a Pro Bowl receiver but a malcontent in the locker room who now is serving a jail sentence for a felony gun possession while playing for the N.Y. Giants. Steelers Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes, handed a four-game suspension earlier this year for violating the league's substance abuse policy, is now a New York Jet.

Rooney and his son, Art, now the team president, want to win as much as any of their colleagues around the league. But they also want to win with a team their city and their passionately devoted fans can also be proud of. And Roethlisberger's recent transgressions with a 20-year-old woman in Georgia who claimed she was sexually assaulted, as well as a civil lawsuit filed in 2008 by a Reno women who also claimed sexual assault, have made him something of a Pittsburgh pariah.

Though Georgia authorities did not file charges against Roethlisberger after the March 5 incident because they did not think they had enough evidence to convict, there was no question according to recently released police reports, that Big Ben behaved abhorrently, if not criminally.

Goodell had never before suspended a player who hadn't been arrested or charged with a crime, but in this case, his disciplinary actions ought to be applauded. And when the Steelers part company with their irresponsible dolt of a quarterback, almost surely by the end of the week, give them a spirited hand, as well.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  April 21, 2010; 7:47 PM ET  | Category:  Ben Roethlisberger , Draft , NFL , Pittsburgh Steelers , Quarterbacks , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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