First and foremost, Roethlisberger needs to heed the message that Steelers chairman Dan Rooney sent on Wednesday night, when he lauded quarterback Charlie Batch’s charitable endeavors in Pittsburgh. Though it would appear contrived if Roethlisberger suddenly began to give a lot of his money away locally, contrived charity is always better than no charity at all.
More importantly, people need to hear something from Roethlisberger other than a recitation of words written by a lawyer and revised by a P.R. expert. Really, that’s all the public has seen or heard from Roethlisberger in the wake of the Nevada lawsuit and the Georgia investigation.
Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw has been vocal in his contempt for, and growing dislike of, Roethlisberger. Most recently, Bradshaw appeared via phone on NFL Network’s Total Access and told host Rich Eisen that Roethlisberger should be suspended two or four games, that Roethlisberger has embarrassed the franchise, the Rooney family, and the city of Pittsburgh, and that Roethlisberger should get out of bars and stay out of college towns.
For the most part, Steelers fans agree with Bradshaw. And with Bradshaw making it clear that Roethlisberger has no regard or respect for the man who came before him, Roethlisberger’s best move would be to mend fences with Bradshaw — and then to sit down with Bradshaw for a one-on-one, no-holds-barred interview televised either on FOX or on NFLN.
The primary impediment to such an exchange is the pending legal proceeding in Nevada, and the possibility of a civil case in Georgia, if a confidential settlement hasn’t already been reached. After all, anything Roethlisberger says can be used against him in those actions. But if, as it appears, Roethlisberger has a strong defense to the case in Nevada, he should be willing to talk about the situation in Georgia.
Of course, Roethlisberger would first have to be willing to embrace the truth. Even if he did not have sex, consensual or otherwise, with the alleged victim in Milledgeville, Roethlisberger needs to talk openly and candidly about a lifestyle that seems to suggest the following pattern: (1) go to bars with an entourage that includes at least two off-duty police officers who serve as bodyguards; (2) congregate in the VIP room; (3) let only girls into the VIP room; (4) ply them with drinks; (5) eventually pick one of them for a possible encounter in a more private area of the club; (6) point her out to one of the bodyguards; (7) allow the bodyguard to take her to the more private area of the club; and (8) rendezvous with her there.
This approach invites the possibility that a girl who is infatuated by the presence of a pro athlete acquires misgivings when her efforts to get his attention have a degree of acute success that she had never wanted nor intended.
The problem is that, with Roethlisberger and his bodyguards attempting to apply their Fifth Amendment rights beyond a Court of Law, the vacuum in the Court of Public Opinion has been filled by the witness statements and other accounts provided by the alleged victim and her friends. Despite the inconsistencies regarding whether Roethlisberger and the girl has sexual contact and whether it was consensual (which, in all fairness, the media generally has not always pointed out), it’s fair to conclude based on those statements that Roethlisberger’s modus operandi tracks the eight steps outlined above — especially if Roethlisberger chooses not to talk.
To reclaim the affection of Steelers fans, he needs to talk. He needs to tell the truth. And if anyone is going to believe that he plans to avoid putting himself in a position where false accusations can be made, he needs to be honest about the circumstances that resulted in accusations, false or otherwise, being made in the early morning of March 5.
Unless and until Roethlisberger talks to someone who can draw out the truth and at the same time rough him up a bit, the general public won’t be prepared to forgive and forget, primarily since they don’t know what they’ll be forgiving and/or forgetting.
In this regard, he may be inclined to sit down instead with his former teammate and friend Jerome Bettis, who has been on his own “suspend Ben” tour, expressing that view both on CBS and on The Dan Patrick Show. To truly begin the process of restoring his image in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger needs to show a higher level of courage — and he needs to take a bigger dose of medicine.
Bradshaw is the best one to give it to him.