The Ben Roethlisberger rape scandal just won't go away. Even though the star quarterback somehow escaped charges, the prosecutor's detailed description of events Monday angered and embarrassed team owners. Yesterday's publication in the Post-Gazette of documents associated with the case indicate that an organized, premeditated rape most likely did occur.
In a statement made Thursday, Steelers president Art Rooney II would not rule out trading Roethlisberger. "We don't talk about trades in advance, that's been a consistent policy. ... The only thing I'll add is that at this point we have not discussed a trade with any other club."
I suppose there are many ways to interpret Rooney's statement, but one is that no other team has made an offer for Roethlisberger. The statement could be seen as an invitation to do so.
While no one approves of Ben's actions, fans have divided into two camps: those who support Ben and those who don't. I have leaned in the latter direction. Luckily, "what to do with Ben" is not my decision, but that doesn't stop me from speculating on possible scenarios. Here are a few:
1. Ben will be suspended for 2-4 games to start the 2010 season. He will return to the NFL as a villain who is booed everywhere he goes, causing emotional and mental stress for the quarterback and the team. If Ben has a bad year, his value in the trade market will plummet, but some team will be desperate enough to take a chance on the disgraced former star.
2. Ben will be suspended for 2-4 games to start the 2010 season. He will make a big show of contrition and go into high-profile treatment of some kind, after which he will return to the field and have a great year. He will start talking a lot about "the man upstairs" who is watching over him, and all will be forgiven. Ben Roethlisberger will go on to have a great career in the NFL but will be kept out of the hall of fame.
3. We will awake one morning to a story about how Ben has been traded to the Oakland Raiders for a sixth-round draft pick and a player to be named later.
No matter what happens, Steelers fans will enter this next season with much apprehension and concern. Because fans are fickle, everything will depend on Ben's (and the team's) performance on the field. If 2010 turns out to be another troubled, mediocre season, fan support and sympathy will evaporate.
As much as I'd like to see some version of scenario 2, I fear scenarios 1 and 3.