Look for a new man in Big Ben return

Published Oct. 14, 2010 1:00 a.m. ET

Hey, Jason!

Thanks for all the support. Can't wait to have dinner with you this week.


Here are your Week 6 NFL Truths:

10. The suspension and humbling of Ben Roethlisberger might be the worst thing that ever happened to Pittsburgh opponents.

Stripped of his captaincy, forced to self-evaluate and mature, Roethlisberger now has a real opportunity to be universally respected inside the Steelers locker room.

It's no secret that before the suspension many of Roethlisberger's teammates, particularly Hines Ward, tolerated Big Ben solely because of his talent. Roethlisberger's arrogance and immaturity turned off a good portion of the Steelers locker room.


Now you get the sense his teammates love him. Roethlisberger handled his suspension beautifully. Taking advice from ESPN's Merrill Hoge, a former Steeler, Big Ben has reinvented himself as the NFL player most appreciative of his opportunity to play on Sundays.

I half expect Big Ben to do the Ray Lewis pre-game dance before the Cleveland-Pittsburgh game on Sunday. Roethlisberger now reminds me of Lewis, the Baltimore linebacker who almost lost his freedom and career because of double-murder allegations.

Lewis had to make significant personal adjustments after avoiding a murder trial. He threw himself into football and became Ray-ven Lewis, the most respected player in the league. It's not surprising that Lewis and Roethlisberger are now friends.

The problem for Lewis and the rest of the league's non-Steelers is that a focused and beloved Roethlisberger could make the Steelers totally unbeatable.

With Roethlisberger in the lineup, the 2010 Steelers are potentially as good as any team we've seen in the free-agent, salary-cap era. I don't see a flaw. Their defense is dominant. Their offense can run the ball. They have solid special teams. Mike Tomlin is a young Bill Cowher. Their lone weakness was the passing game and pass protection. Big Ben cures both of those problems.

A lack of locker-room chemistry was the last hope for Pittsburgh opponents. But it sounds like all of the Steelers understand how much they need Roethlisberger and they are rallying around Big Ben.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Steelers won the rest of their games, and we ended the season debating whether their 15-1 campaign was superior to New England's 16-0 2007 season.

9. Maybe NFL owners or network TV executives finally informed Roger Goodell his primary job as commissioner is to act as executive producer of America's No. 1 TV drama rather than impersonate Law & Order's Lennie Briscoe.

Whatever the cause, Goodell is appropriately pumping the brakes on the Brett Favre investigation, giving Favre and Jenn Sterger time to work out a $ettlement.

There is no other explanation for Goodell's lack of interest in interviewing Favre. Someone informed the commish that his role as the league's morality police is interfering with his primary job of conducting business.

You think FOX, ESPN, CBS and NBC want Brett Favre suspended for chasing tail? Hell no. You think Vikings owner Zygi Wilf -- one of Goodell's bosses -- wants Favre suspended? Hell no.

Favre is Tony Soprano, a fascinating, complex, flawed character and proven ratings-driver.

If I'm Wilf, Jerry Jones or any NFL owner, I demand that Goodell pay Sterger to go away. It's good business.

Goodell continuing in the role as head of Internal Affairs is bad business. Goodell needs to delegate the role to someone he can easily compromise and blame for inevitable inconsistencies. Too much of Goodell's integrity is tied to how he handles disciplining players. Every player in the league is looking at Goodell, wondering if he'll be as tough on Favre as he was on Big Ben.

Goodell is answering to the league's players rather than the owners. That's a losing formula for the league.

8. Or maybe Goodell is dragging his feet because he knows Sunday's Dallas-Minnesota showdown could be Favre's last game.

The table is certainly set for Favre to walk away. He's informed everyone that the tendinitis in his elbow is bothering him and hurting his throwing accuracy. He threw out the possibility of sitting out a game or two and giving his elbow rest.

If the Vikings fall to 1-4 and Sterger's $ettlement demands become unreasonable, the smart play for Favre is to put himself on injured reserve and enroll in sext-addiction therapy. Sprint and Verizon both have nationally recognized programs.

7. It makes perfect sense for Sterger to hold onto voice mails, e-mails and pictures she received from a famous athlete/celebrity.

I'm tired of hearing people -- mostly men -- rip Sterger for keeping the alleged Favre communications for two years.

If Halle Berry texted me a picture of her little toe, I'd save the text, print out the picture, frame it and hang it in my office. Hell, I'd take out an ad in a major newspaper bragging that Berry contacted me. (Just kidding, Halle, if you're reading this. I'm very discreet. Ask Beyonce.)

Favre is famous. He should assume that all of his communications are being recorded and saved. It's the world we live in.

6. Followers of my column remember me being very upset when Herm Edwards auditioned for the role as Tiger Woods life coach in the aftermath of Tiger's Thanksgiving Tragedy.

I predicted that Edwards would regret his over-the-top sanctimony and moralizing about Woods. At the time, I asked if Edwards, an ESPN NFL analyst, would be as tough on football players as he was on a golfer. Edwards played and coached in the NFL. He knows better than almost anyone that Tiger's behavior wasn't all that unusual in the sports world.

As best I can tell, and I've checked, Edwards has yet to melt down on Brett Favre.

Sexual harassment is common place in the NFL. And I'm not talking about the players and catcalls inside a locker room. I'm talking about the coaches and executives and behavior that flirts with criminality.

For the record, I'm in no way insinuating that Edwards was involved in unprofessional behavior while coaching the Chiefs. During his time in Kansas City, Edwards struck me as extremely professional and devoted to his family. But he also struck me as very astute and aware of everything that transpires in professional sports.

He needs to be consistent with his moralizing.

5. How did Mike Singletary yelling at Alex Smith become a controversy?

There are many reasons to criticize Singletary's performance as head coach of the 49ers. Yelling at Smith does not crack the list.

John Madden complained in a radio interview that screaming at Smith on the sideline during San Fran's Sunday-night loss to the Eagles "wasn't coaching."

Really? It worked. It inspired Smith to play better. He threw two touchdown passes after Singletary nearly benched him. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth took shots at Singletary during Sunday's game. When Smith's play improved, rather than give Singletary credit for lighting a fire under the QB bust, Collinsworth complained that for once Singletary didn't make a bonehead decision and bench Smith.

Could we please end the Jimmy Raye pity party? Raye, the offensive coordinator Singletary fired, coached in the NFL for three decades. You can make a lot of friends in three decades. It appears those friends are rallying around Raye, a solid position coach who had no business leading an offense.

I'm not sold on Singletary as a head coach. If he gets fired, I won't shed a tear. Promoting Raye to OC is/was a fireable offense. But yelling at a mediocre quarterback he didn't draft? Give me a break. Bill Parcells routinely yelled at his QBs without Madden saying a word.

4. Sorry this column has an I-told-you-so feel, but I told you the demonization of Reggie Bush was ridiculous long before former NFL agent Josh Luchs squealed on everybody for taking money.

The NCAA rule book must be destroyed. The entire concept of "amateur" status is completely outdated.

We in the media need to quit vilifying athletes and agents and recognize the current system creates the corruption. If the participants don't believe in the system, they will not respect the rules. It's been that way since the beginning of time.

You have kids risking their physical and mental health, training year-round and we demonize them for taking money. We don't demonize the coaches for taking more and more money.

3. Eddie George complained on ESPN First Take that the refs favor Peyton Manning and Tom Brady over Vince Young and Michael Vick when it comes to flagging defenders for illegal QB hits. George blamed racism.

I agree with George -- Manning and Brady are pampered. But they're pampered because they're the biggest stars in the league and they're not mobile QBs. The refs favored Michael Jordan in the NBA. The refs don't pamper Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan or Phillip Rivers.

Young, Vick and Donovan McNabb are going to take more hits than Manning and Brady because the former group is more likely to scramble. Manning falls to the ground at the hint of contact. He's like a war veteran who flinches when he hears firecrackers.

Protecting the quarterback is a complicated issue. My biggest complaint is that Baltimore defenders are monitored more closely than other defenders. I think that's a product of opposing coaches and quarterbacks whining before the game.

2. There is no QB controversy in Philadelphia. Michael Vick is the starter when he's healthy.

Kevin Kolb had a nice performance against the 49ers. It was not a bench-Vick performance. Not even close.

Kolb tried to force too many passes to tight end Brent Celek. I like Celek. But he's not Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez. Celek is good at finding a soft spot in a zone. He's not the guy you force the ball to in double coverage. He's not particularly adept at snagging the 50-50 ball.

1. If you watched Todd Collins quarterback the Bears last week, you now understand why I believe Jeff George should still be playing.

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