Dorsett: Big Ben “lucky” to still be a Steeler

Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hugs a teammate after the Steelers defeated the New York Jets 24-19, winning the AFC Championship, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 23, 2011. The Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Something that hasn’t gone unnoticed amidst all the Super Bowl hype is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has come a long way since his offseason troubles. It seems like decades ago that Big Ben missed the first four games of the season after being suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for his off-field behavior.

And as Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett pointed out to ESPN’s Matt Mosley, Roethlisberger is fortunate to be where he is right now.

When I asked Dorsett about Ben Roethlisberger’s issues, he was quick to respond:

“They will not allow a player to smear the organization,” he said. “They wanted to let that situation run its course. But I promise you he is very lucky to still be on that team.”

Dorsett wasn’t reaching with his comments. Roethlisberger is very lucky to still be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was talk of the team trading him around draft time in April and while they never did, this season still could have played out much differently.

Considering they played the Falcons, Titans, Bucs and Ravens to start the season, you can’t blame pundits who thought the Steelers would be fortunate to start the year 2-2. But they went 3-1 with Big Ben on the sidelines, which is a testament to the team that Kevin Colbert has built over the years. (“Team” being the operative word.)

What would have happened had the Steelers lost three of their first four games instead of winning three of four? While we can’t assume anything, it’s not a stretch to think that they would not have earned the No. 2 seed and therefore, may not have reached the Super Bowl. Worse yet, what if Big Ben’s suspension at the start of the year sent this team into a tailspin and they never recovered? What if he played poorly upon his return?

It’s interesting to look back at what has happened over the last six months or so.

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NFL has 14 players suspended to start season, but MLB has steroids!

August 16, 2010: New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes (10) with a smile after missing a catch in the end zone during the NFL preseason game between the New York Giants and the New York Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants beat the Jets, 31-16.

One of the biggest double standards in all of sports is how the NFL gets a free pass when it comes to criticizing players for off-field problems, yet because baseball had the steroid era MLB players might as well be the devil reincarnate.

Fourteen players will start the 2010 NFL season suspended:

Ben Roethlisberger – wasn’t charged, but accused of sexual assault twice in one year

Cary Williams – domestic dispute

Quinn Ojinnaka – arrested and charged with battery, accused of throwing his wife down the stairs of their house and throwing her out

Aqib Talib – punched a cab driver, charged with resisting arrest without violence and simple battery

Jonathan Babineaux – substance abuse

Robert James – PEDs

Santonio Holmes – violated substance abuse policy

Shawn Nelson – failed drug test (supposedly marijuana)

LenDale White – failed drug test (supposedly marijuana)

Vincent Jackson – two DUIs

Leroy Hill – arrested on marijuana-possession charge

Johnny Jolly – felony drug charge

Brian Cushing – PEDs

Gerald McRath – PEDs

Let’s see, we’ve got battery, sexual assault, failed drug tests, PEDs and one punched cab driver. And yet somehow, Pacman Jones’ name didn’t make the list.

When an NFL player is suspended, one of the first things that fans ask is, “How long will he be out for?”

When a MLB player is caught using steroids, it’s: “He disrespected the game! Cut off his f**king hands! Prepare him for sacrifice to the baseball Gods!”

Mark McGwire tried to get a job earlier this year as the Cardinals’ hitting coach and you would have sworn that he set a school on fire that happened to be next to a church, which also burned down. Yet Santonio Holmes is being viewed as the ultimate late round sleeper in fantasy football drafts because he’s going to be out for the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Look, I realize that steroids can have a profound effect on scared records, wins and whether or not players have an unnatural advantage over another player.

But I’m sorry, steroids take a back seat to domestic violence, battery and sexual abuse. Wrong is wrong and cheating the game of baseball is definitely grounds for being scrutinized for the rest of your life but come on – NFL players are breaking the law and it’s not even Page 7B news anymore.

The double standard between how NFL and MLB players are viewed is appalling.

Breaking News: Big Ben’s suspension reduced to four games

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks onto the field before a preseason game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora is reporting that the NFL has reduced Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension from six to four games.

Roethlisberger’s suspension is 4 games. He has left the NY area and is en route back to Pittsburgh. Full story ahead on NFL Network

Not shocking – I think most people were expecting Roger Goodell to reduce the suspension in light of Big Ben’s good behavior (for lack of better words).

The games he’ll miss are against the Falcons, Titans, Bucs and Ravens and the news couldn’t come at a better time with Byron Leftwich suffering a knee injury in Pittsburgh’s final preseason game Thursday night. ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen believes that Leftwich can avoid having surgery and still start in the opener, although in my opinion, Dennis Dixon is a better option anyway given Lefty’s issues with consistency.

We’ll see what happens with Big Ben in four weeks. He’ll have some rust to shake off by that point and it stands to reason that he’ll need a couple of starts to get back into the groove of things.

And no matter how well he performs when he comes back, he better avoid off-field issues or else is career in Pittsburgh will likely end. Considering the Steelers were contemplating dumping him after this last incident, I don’t think I’m reaching with that statement either.

All summer, I’ve been advocating taking Big Ben in the 9th or 10th round as part of a Quarterback By Committee (QBBC) with Eli Manning, Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco, so this is obviously good news for those owners that have followed that advice. By getting Roethlisberger so late, fantasy owners will be getting a Top 6 or 7 fantasy QB at a big discount. I suspect that this news will push Roethisberger’s ADP into the 9th round, so be prepared to use a 7th or 8th rounder on Eli/Ryan/Flacco and a 9th on Big Ben to round out a very potent committee.

Can Leftwich and Dixon keep the Steelers afloat until Big Ben returns?

8-14-10:  Ben Roethlisberger  and Byron Leftwich  during the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Detroit Lions game in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the affects that Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension could have on the Steelers’ quarterback position.

After trading Santonio Holmes to the Jets in the offseason, some feel as though the Steelers’ biggest weakness is at receiver. But Hines Ward continues to be the model for production and Mike Wallace is turning heads as a potential deep threat. I also like promising sixth-rounder Antonio Brown and there have been reports that third rounder Emmanuel Sanders could beat out Antwaan Randle El for the No. 3 receiver job by the start of the season.

If I’m the Steelers, receiver isn’t my main concern – quarterback is.

As of this writing, Ben Roethlisberger is still slated to miss the first six games of the season due to a suspension. That number could be reduced to four games, but Roger Goodell has yet to make announce his decision either way.

But even if it’s only four games, the Steelers still have to be concerned about getting off to a slow start with either Byron Lefwich or youngster Dennis Dixon at the helm. They host the Falcons in Week 1 before facing the Titans and Buccaneers in back-to-back road games. They host the Ravens in Week 4, their bye is Week 5 and then they play the Browns at home in Week 6 before going on the road to Miami in Week 7.

While it’s a rather fruitless endeavor to try and predict the success of teams in preseason, it’s probably safe to assume the Falcons, Ravens and Dolphins will be playoff contenders, while the Titans will be improved as well. I’m sure if the Steelers can play .500 ball while Big Ben is out, they’ll take it. But what if Leftwich and/or Dixon put them in a hole early in the season?

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Goodell may reduce Big Ben’s suspension to four games — how would this impact his fantasy value?

31 July 2010 - Latrobe, Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER ( ) signs autographs and jokes with fans during the first practice of the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp held at Saint Vincent College. Photo Credit: Jason L Nelson/AdMedia

Per the USA Today:

The only sure thing is that Roethlisberger will sit out at least the four games. However, the commish likes the way the quarterback has reacted to the suspension. (Click here for Steelers’ schedule)

“He is doing great,” Goodell said. “… I’ve been encouraged by what I have seen. He’s understanding the seriousness of the issue. I think that’s a very positive development.”

For those fantasy owners who made it through my rather extensive QBBC article (or at least read the parts printed in bold), Roethlisberger is an interesting middle- to late-round pick this year. He’s usually underrated because the Steelers are still perceived to be a running team when in recent years they have been far more willing to throw the ball. And now this suspension has depressed his value even further.

But it looks like the commissioner may reduce his suspension from six games to four, and if he does, it would only serve to enhance Roethlisberger’s already appealing fantasy value.

As outlined in the aforementioned QBBC article, Roethlisberger forms a nice platoon with both Eli Manning and Matt Ryan (and, by the way, Joe Flacco). If Goodell reduces his suspension to four games, it means that he would return in Week 6 after the Steelers’ bye. That matchup is against the Browns, and it’s a tasty matchup indeed. In fact, it’s better than any of the matchups of the other QBs in play. The question is, would you want to start him in his first start of the season? Wouldn’t he be rusty?

That’s your call, but I wouldn’t be afraid to start him, not if he’s facing the Browns after he’s had two weeks to take all the snaps in practice. It wouldn’t be that much different than the first game of the season.

The downside of the lowered suspension is that his average draft position is probably going to rise. Still, only the savvy owners are going to jump on a guy that is going to miss four games; In recent years, Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith both went about two rounds later than they should have because they were facing suspensions. Generally speaking, Big Ben is an undervalued 7th or 8th round QB, which means he’ll likely go in the 9th or the 10th.

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