On Monday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will return from his four-game suspension for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.
And as he returns, the question is whether and to what extent he’ll be accepted by his teammates.
On one hand, the Steelers need him. Even with Charlie Batch playing well, Ben gives the team the best option to keep winning.
On the other hand, Ben still has work to do to get back in the good graces of his teammates.
There’s reason to believe that things won’t be as hunky and/or dory as the team’s success would suggest. As one league source pointed out, Roethlisberger and former Steelers teammate Santonio Holmes, who both were suspended four games at the same time, spent no time working out together in the past month. The source, who has knowledge of the dynamic between Roethlisberger and Holmes, explained it this way: “It would be very hard to find a player who played with [Roethlisberger] who likes him.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Roethlisberger has been working on improving his relationship with his teammates, and specifically his linemen. One source who personally observed the dynamic between Roethlisberger and his offensive linemen at a meal in the preseason concluded that the attempt by the quarterback to cozy up to his teammates looked forced and contrived. Still, Ben will continue to try to reverse any and all damage from past seasons.
In this regard, the key could be quarterback Charlie Batch. Ben and Batch have a close relationship, and Batch’s success as Ben’s short-term replacement (since Dennis Dixon was injured in Week Two) likely will give Batch even more authority in the locker room. If/when Batch tells the rest of the guys to let bygones be bygones, they’re more likely to do it.
Making it even more important is the fact that the Steelers are winning — and that they need nothing to distract them from the success they’ve had. So the players need to put the past in their behinds and move forward.