2010 Offseason: Not Again, Big Ben

The following are posts from Steelahs.com, which was my Steelers blog before I started Respect The Towel.

April 28, 2010

New blood

By Mike Batista

So while the Steelers try to rehabilitate their sexually deviant quarterback, they take Florida center Maurkice Pouncey in the first round of the draft.

Just what Ben Roethlisberger needs. A center. Someone else whose crotch he'll be sticking his hands into.

Well, for now it looks like Pouncey (6-4, 304) will line up at guard for the Steelers. Hopefully by the time he's ready to take over for Justin Hartwig at center, Roethlisberger will have learned to behave.

The Steelers have a proud tradition at center (Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Hartings) that Pouncey will hopefully restore. Choosing him in the first round signals the Steelers' commitment to re-establishing the running game.

Here's a quick look at the rest of the Steelers' draftees:

2 (52): Jason Worilds (OLB, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 254): Could develop into a monster pass rusher. Also strong on special teams. First of three linebackers chosen in the draft by the Steelers. Not only do they need linebacker depth in a 3-4 defense, but James Harrison is 32, and James Farrior, who is 35, really started to show his age last season. This guy better be good, because since LaMarr Woodley in 2007, the Steelers haven't got much out of the second round. They didn't have a second-round pick last year, and Limas Sweed (2008) has one last chance before he is officially stamped as a bust. Another reason Worilds (pronounced Worlds) better be good is that Terrence Cody, Alabama's 349-pound nose tackle, was still on the board. The Ravens got him five picks later. The Steelers need an eventual successor to Casey Hampton, and I'm concerned about that mountain playing in the AFC North. The Steelers didn't address their aging defensive line until the seventh round.

3 (82): Emmanuel Sanders (WR, Southern Methodist, 5-11, 186): The Steelers needed to pick a receiver somewhere in the draft, although I thought the third round was a little early. They must have liked this guy. He was projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, but the Steelers took him in the third round so they wouldn't risk losing him before their turn in the fourth round. SMU's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Also can return punts.

4 (116): Thaddeus Gibson (OLB, Ohio State, 6-2, 243): Left school a year early after being named second-team all-Big 10. Doesn't seem to be a finished product. Also can help out on special teams.

5 (151): Chris Scott (OG, Tennessee, 6-5, 319): Started last 39 games for Volunteers (eight at right guard, 31 at left tackle). Did not allow a sack at left tackle during the regular season in 2009, but projects as a guard in the NFL.

5 (164): Crezdon Butler (CB, Clemson, 6-0, 191): 10 career interceptions at Clemson. Return of Bryant McFadden is reason Steelers didn't take a cornerback sooner.

5 (166): Stevenson Sylvester (OLB, Utah, 6-2, 231): A first-team all-Mountain West selection in 2009. A project at linebacker but can help on special teams.

6 (188) Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech, 5-11, 229): Everyone says this guy's a steal as a sixth-rounder. He had two straight seasons in which he gained 1,395 yards at Georgia Tech. It's possible he benefitted from Tech's triple-option offense. With his size, he could be the short-yardage guy the Steelers have lacked since Jerome Bettis retired. But it remains to be seen whether he can fill the Steelers' need for someone who can spell Rashard Mendenhall as a featured back. Interestingly, at Georgia Tech he followed in the footsteps of Tashard Choice, who has averaged more than five yards a carry (821 yards on 156 carries) in two years with the Cowboys.

6 (195) Antonio Brown (WR, Central Michigan, 5-10, 186): Guess where this guy can help? That's right. Special teams. He's a two-time MAC Special Teams Player of the Year. In three years he amassed 3,434 yards and five touchdowns returning kicks and punts. Something tells me special teams was kind of important for the Steelers in this draft.

7 (242): Doug Worthington, (DE, Ohio State, 6-5, 292): Better late than never as far as addressing that aging defensive line.

April 13, 2010

Whack Roethlisberger

By Mike Batista

Ben Roethlisberger is in a place a whole lot different from Milledgeville today.

He's in New York to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, where it is likely he will be asked to drop his pants so Goodell can whack his big ass 10 times with a paddle shaped like the NFL shield.

When Goodell is done with Roethlisberger, here's what I think the Steelers should do: Suspend him for two games (if Goodell doesn't do it), and tell him that if he fucks up the tiniest bit, one lewd comment to a woman, one speeding ticket, one public urination, one fart that stinks up the locker room for more than 30 seconds, he's off the team. Goodbye Roethlisberger. Hello shitload of draft picks (and hopefully an actual player).

It seems there might be some racial tension if Roethlisberger gets a lighter punishment than Santonio Holmes, who was shipped out by the Steelers then suspended for four games under the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Before anyone accuses the Steelers of preference based on race, keep in mind that the Rooney Rule came from Pittsburgh. Not only did Dan Rooney introduce the rule requiring NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring coaches, he practiced what he preached by hiring Mike Tomlin.

District Attorney Fred Bright didn't charge Roethlisberger on Monday, but by revealing the lewd details of the investigation, he turned the tide of public opinion against him, even more so than it was before the announcement.

This all could wear off by training camp, but in listening to Pittsburgh talk radio, it seems the backlash against Roethlisberger is so strong that there's only one way he can repair his image: By winning more championships.

That's the Kobe Bryant method of recovery after a scandal of this type.

But if Roethlisberger goes out and has a year like he did in 2006, he might be run out of town. Unfortunately, I'm concerned that might happen.

See, since no respectable woman will want to come near Roethlisberger now, his offensive linemen won't get any sloppy seconds when they go out on the town. So they'll be less likely to protect him on the field, and he'll probably get sacked 90 times.

So while he wasn't charged with a crime, Roethlisberger could be sentenced to a lifetime of masturbation.

One way to be paroled from that sentence is to contribute to and volunteer for women's causes. Maybe he could wear pink shoes or pink gloves for breast cancer awareness every game next season. That would be a start, even if for Roethlisberger, "every game" means only 14 games.
April 12, 2010

No charges, but ...

By Mike Batista

Ben Roethlisberger is proving to be just as adept as escaping accusatory women as he is at escaping pass rushers.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit D.A. Fred Bright said today that charges will not be filed against Ben Roethlisberger.

Bright said that the allegation of sexual assault cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

So no courtrooms or jail cells for Big Ben, but there will be a trip to the principal's office.

Well, two principals, actually.

Principal Goodell and Principal Rooney (no, not from Ferris Bueller's Day Off).

Looks like Dennis Dixon might get another start next season. Or two. Or three ...

All eyes on Georgia

By Mike Batista

The Masters is over, but Georgia remains a focal point of the sports world for one more day.

Tiger Woods has left Augusta, and the legal fate of Ben Roethlisberger will be announced at 2 p.m. today in Milledgeville.

Both events involve high-profile athletes who think with the little head instead of the big head.

Kind of fitting, considering that in colonial times, Georgia was a penal colony.

More than a game

By Mike Batista

There's a hint of autumn in the air.

That's because it feels like a Steelers game day.

The Steelers will either win or lose today. The only difference is what happens at 2 p.m. today in Milledgeville will have more impact on the Steelers' organization than what happens at 1 p.m. on a random Sunday in October.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fredric Bright will announce if sexual assault charges will be brought against Ben Roethlisberger.

This whole ordeal has been a major headache for the Steelers, but at least they got rid of another headache late last night when they traded Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.

I had enough of Holmes when he announced that he didn't think the Steelers would be able to pay him enough when he became a free agent.

Sure, Holmes was a Super Bowl MVP, but so was Larry Brown. And Holmes had his best year in 2009 with 79 catches. But it's hard to forget all those head-up-the-ass moments from the first three years of his career.

Holmes just isn't good enough to be acting like this big-ticket free agent. He made the Steelers sound like the Pirates. And considering the incident at the Orlando nightclub and his Twitter transgressions, it wasn't exactly the best time for Holmes to ruffle feathers.

Holmes got his big-market wish. Somehow I see him taking up a lot of space on the back pages of the New York tabloids. Just a hunch.

Who knows? If Holmes keeps acting the way he does, the spotlight of the Big Apple might get him on 60 Minutes.

Do you smell segue?

Speaking of 60 Minutes ... you guessed it, the emergence of Mike Wallace makes Holmes' departure a lot easier to swallow.

Wallace was just about invisible during the Steelers' five-game losing streak last season, catching seven passes for 93 yards. In the last three games, all Steelers' victories, the rookie caught seven passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. He's a difference maker, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him next season.

Will we see more of Roethlisberger next season?

We'll find out.

March 9, 2010

Georgia on our minds

By Mike Batista

Say it ain't so, Ben.

Legend has it that a boy said "Say it ain't so" to Shoeless Joe Jackson when he left the courthouse during the Black Sox Scandal trial in 1920.

But we're not dealing with Shoeless Joe. We're dealing with Brainless Ben. So my sentiment is more like this:

"What the fuck, Ben?"

The Steelers are uncharacteristically busy in free agency. They signed safety Will Allen from the Buccaneers and wide receiver Arnaz Battle from the 49ers. In addition to providing depth at their respective positions, Allen and Battle also are strong special teams guys, an area where the Steelers need improvement.

The Steelers also re-signed safety Ryan Clark (I wonder if after visiting the Dolphins, Clark ran back to Pittsburgh like Billy Crystal ran through the streets of New York to Meg Ryan at the end of "When Harry Met Sally") and are on the verge of being reunited with wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.

They also are close to a deal with former Bills offensive tackle Jonathan Scott.

So while the Steelers are working their asses off to get better after a disappointing 9-7 season, they might end up going 4-12 anyway because they could be without the services of a quarterback who doesn't understand "No."


I can't say what happened at the bar in Milledgeville. I wasn't there. But this is the second time in less than a year that Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault. Where there's smoke, there's usually fire.

And if Roethlisberger is so sure about his innocence, why does he need Ray Lewis' attorney to defend him?

Whether Roethlisberger is guilty or not, it sounds like he needs to start treating women with a little more respect. It also wouldn't hurt if he started acting like a guy whose employer has more than $100 million invested in him.

Even if Roethlisberger doesn't end up in an orange jumpsuit, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might send him to his room for a few games.

It might be time to start thinking about life after Roethlisberger. For starters, the Steelers might want to look for the next Tom Brady or Joe Montana in the upcoming draft by taking a flier on a quarterback in the middle to late rounds.

Sure, if Roethlisberger went to the slammer or the Steelers cut him loose, they would lose a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. But that doesn't mean their quarterback has to be Mike Tomczak or Kent Graham. With the money they would free up, they could afford to find someone with a discernable pulse rate to throw the ball.

Or how about Randle El? He did throw more touchdown passes in Super Bowl XL than Roethlisberger.

February 9, 2010

10 Super thoughts

By Mike Batista

The Steelers officially have vacated the throne of defending Super Bowl champions. At least they didn't relinquish it to the Patriots. In the five years since the Patriots last won the Super Bowl, the team that I've rooted for in the big game has won. That doesn't count Super Bowl XLI, when the Colts beat the Bears. I really didn't care who won that one.

Here are 10 random thoughts and observations, mostly about the Super Bowl, that have been rattling around my brain like loose marbles:

Dressed for success

The team wearing the white uniform has won six straight Super Bowls. The Patriots started the streak with their win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. But the Steelers gave the streak some momentum when they won three straight road playoff games in their white jerseys in 2005. To keep that mojo going, Bill Cowher chose the white jerseys even though the Steelers were the "home" team for Super Bowl XL. The team in white has won ever since. Talk about Cowher Power.

Mark your calendars, maybe

Don't be surprised if the Steelers play in the Thursday night season opener for the second year in a row.

As the Super Bowl champions, the Saints will host that game, and the Steelers are on the Saints' home schedule. I'd say it's either going to be the Steelers, the Vikings (which might aid Brett Favre's decision-making process) or the Falcons. The Saints' other home opponents are the Panthers, Buccaneers, Rams, Seahawks and Browns.

The last two games between the Steelers and Saints have been entertaining. In 2006, the Steelers won a 38-31 shootout at Heinz Field. In 2002, the Saints beat the Steelers 32-29 at the Superdome in Tommy Maddox's first start for the Steelers.

In 1967, the Steelers came close to being the first team ever to lose to the Saints. They overcame a 10-0 deficit in the fourth quarter and won 14-10. The Saints fell to 0-7 in their inaugural season but beat the Eagles the following week for their first franchise win.

Neat stuff, huh?

If the NFL maintains the formula of starting the season the week after Labor Day, the 2010 Thursday-night opener would be Sept. 9.

Memo to the owners

The increasing likelihood of a lockout in 2011 has me really pissed and a little less excited about the 2010 season. Hey owners, your workers sacrifice their bodies for you, compromising their short- and long-term health and even their life expectancy in some cases. So what if they have a bigger piece of the revenue pie. They deserve it.

Memo to the Steelers

I hope the Steelers learned from watching the Saints what can happen when your defensive backs actually catch the ball.

Look a little closer

The MGM Mirage puts the Steelers' odds of winning Super Bowl XLV at 7-1, second only to the Colts at 5-1. Apparently they're anticipating the return of Troy Polamalu and figure the Steelers were just a dropped interception or two away from the playoffs in 2009. What they're not seeing is the signs of age on the Steelers' defense.

Up with Who?

Those who wondered why The Who was chosen for the Super Bowl halftime show, let's not forget that Up With People was the act for several Super Bowl halftime shows, most recently in 1986.

Less of Moore

My biggest disappointment with the CBS telecast of the Super Bowl is that Colts' offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who I like to call "Coach Pruneface," got very little face time. I find the sight of Moore hilarious. He constantly looks like he's swallowing grapefruit juice or some rotten-tasting medicine.

Blue Collie

I imagine Colts wide receiver Austin Collie is pretty bummed out about the way the Super Bowl turned out. Maybe we can call this "Austin Collie and the Infinite Sadness." I know, I know. Lame. Don't worry. I won't close with this one.

Heaven for the Saints

I think everyone, including me, rooted for the Saints in this Super Bowl with the exception of Colts fans, certain gamblers and George W. Bush. It's nice to see the people of New Orleans have something to celebrate post-Katrina. It's also a good lesson in perserverance considering the futility Saints fans endured for so many years.

But there's one image from this season that stuck with me and made me pull for the Saints just a little bit harder.

When the Saints beat the Patriots 38-17 in a Monday-night game Nov. 30, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick stood next to each other on the sidelines near the end of the game, looked at each other and couldn't figure out what to say.

That's how soundly the Saints beat the Patriots.

Since the Patriots ducked the Steelers in 2005, it's nice to see that every Super Bowl champion has stepped on them along the way.

The Colts came back to beat the Patriots in the 2006 AFC championship game. The Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The Steelers beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium to establish themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2008. Then there was that Saints' victory.

Not only did that game help me like the Saints a little more, it also helped me finally forgive them for losing to the Patriots in the final weekend of the 1980 regular season, which knocked the Steelers out of the playoff picture the year after they won their fourth Super Bowl. Like the Saints were going to beat the Patriots anyway. They were 1-15 that year.

By the way, the Patriots come to Heinz Field next season.

Something to look forward to.