You’d think there would be some apprehension in the Steelers organization about the civil suit filed last week in Nevada against Ben Roethlisberger.
You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
Today at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Big Ben’s teammates and coaches didn’t merely close ranks and pledge support as one would expect, they actually expressed dismissiveness bordering on hostility about the suit on this first day of the Steelers 2009 training camp.
Asked after the team’s afternoon practice if he’s impressed with the way Roethlisberger has handled the situation, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said, “He’s handled it how I expected him to handle it to be quite honest with you.”
Pausing, Tomlin shook his head and said,”This is . . . .” He caught himself and said, “You know, I understand it’s that time of year and it’s something to talk about but this is . . . you know, it’s not gonna be an issue for us, it’s really not. If this derails our football team we got a lot more problems than this story.”
Roethlisberger addressed his teammates about the situation Friday night, explaining ”his side of the story” according to teammate Hines Ward, a little speech which may not have been the best idea, writes Emperor Florio.
And, while his teammates may not have studied the 36-page complaint filed to get a more balanced picture, it doesn’t seem they intend to either.
“He explained his side and we believe in our quarterback and it’s just a frivolous situation where someone is trying to make some money,” said Steelers linebacker James Harrison. “And that’s all that is. You can’t even print what I’d like to say.”
Said safety Ryan Clark, “He’s been a man about it. He addressed us all. He told us the situation and told us it wouldn’t affect how he plays football. Guys accept him. We love him. We weren’t there. We believe what he says. What happens there is not going to affect what happens on this grass.”
Earlier in the day, Roethlisberger addressed a gaggle of reporters and played dumb when asked about how he’s been able to remain focused.
“This is what I do, it’s football. I don’t know what you’re talking about, I play football, I come out here and play football.”
Asked about support from his teammates, Roethlisberger answered, “It’s good because they have my back and I have theirs.”
When other entreaties were made about the issue, Roethlisberger cautioned that he would stop talking if they persisted. “Any other football questions? I can walk away if we want.”
The upshot of the day? While this entire situation is going to boil down to “he said, she said,” it’s clear that whatever Roethlisberger’s told his employers and co-workers about what happened convinced them to boldly defend him.