In a shocking development, the Steelers traded their 7th round pick in 2010 NFL Draft for quarterback Byron Leftwich, who served as their back up during their 2008 Super Bowl season.
The move carries numerous implications although no clear conclusions are evident at the moment.
Change of Heart?
The move is so surprising because when the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault story broke Art Rooney II said indicated that the Steelers needed to make no immediate moves because “they had the luxury of time.”
Rooney’s meaning was quite clear: The Steelers would not be considering bringing in another quarterback until they knew about Roethlisberger’s availability.
Of course now that they have made the move, what does that tell us?
Are the Steelers Pulling a Lucy with Charlie Bro.. er a Batch?
A few weeks ago the Steelers resigned Charlie Batch and many, including this site, took that as a sign that they expected to have Ben available.
Resigning Batch amounted to a very minor surprise, because Batch has everything you want in a back up quarterback, except durability. Perhaps they’ve simply reached the conclusion that Batch cannot be counted on for a significant enough stretch of games to keep him a the third quarterback.
The Steelers have only undergone a few days of OTA’s and while it is possible that they have seen something in Batch to effect a change of heart, it is not probable. Which suggests two other possibilities…
The Steelers have Word the Roethsliberger’s Suspension Will Be Longer Than Expected...
The Steelers are close to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and he is close to them. So it is unlikely that the Steelers management will be surprised by whatever suspension Ben gets.
The conventional thinking is that the suspension will be no less than 2 games and no more than four.
A decision to bring in Leftwich could signal that the Steelers have gotten word that they’re going to miss Ben for more than a handful of games. Given Batch’s past history of injury, the Steelers would be foolish to embark on a lengthy stretch of games with only Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch available to play.
This is both possible and plausible, but the Steelers could also be signaling something more permanent about Ben’s future as a Steeler….
Ben Roethsliberger’s Days as a Steeler Are Over
The other conclusion is that the Steelers plan to trade Ben Roethlisberger.
As soon as the news broke both Bob Smizik and Blitzburgh of Behind the Steel Curtain speculated that a trade would be possible.
Now Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette has confirmed that:
…the Steelers have received trade feelers from other teams and have not ruled out the possibility of dealing their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the Post-Gazette has learned.
Gerry Dulac makes it clear that the Steeler have no interest in dumping Roethlsiberger for a fire sale price the way they did with Santonio Holmes. However, he does add that:
Nonetheless, the possibility Roethlisberger could be traded, provided the price is right, is not being discounted by the team.
What a revelation which goes against all of the reporting done by both the Pittsburgh and national press.
The logic is sound. Up until a few days ago the conventional wisdom was that the NFL would wait to suspend Roethlisberger until after the draft, so as to make the draft the sole focus of NFL coverage.
However, if the Rooneys have decided, perhaps based on their own investigation of Roethlisberger’s activities, it is entirely possible that they asked the league to move up the suspension announcement.
Clarifying the terms of suspension would most likely enhance Roethlisberger’s trade value, as potential suitors would not need to speculate about his immediate availability and the Steelers would be in position to get immediate value for Roethlisberger (without out a Collective Bargaining Agreement, officially there is no draft after 2011, which means a team cannot trade its 2012 picks.)
So if the Steelers were to consider dealing Roethlisberger, it would seem his trade value is at its highest now.
What Happens Next?
The interesting thing about this is that, while reporting the Bryon Leftwich trade, at the moment national outlets like ESPN and SI-CNN are not reporting the trade news. The Neither is the Tribune-Review reporting that the Steelers are open to a trade.
Gerry Dulac also provides us with a little nugget:
Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a press conference last Thursday that the Steelers will work with Goodell to determine the punishment and that no further discipline would be administered.
Rooney said Roethlisberger is prepared to accept the "consequences."
At the time of the press conference, the Steelers were unaware of the details of the alleged incident that were contained in a police report that was made public Friday.
This reference to the “police report” was the first one made by Dulac in his article. One can only assume that he is referring to the hundreds of pages made public by the Georgia DA.
As Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out, that report contained at least one other unsubstantiated report of sexual misconduct on the part of Ben Roethlisberger. It is important to say that no compliant to the police was ever made.
The Steelers have almost undoubtedly been doing their own investigations into Ben’s off the field activities.
A report from the Georgia DA that substantiates something the Steelers own investigations have uncovered and/or if this shows that Ben has been less than truthful with the Steelers with respect to other skeletons he might have in his closet, could easily force the Steelers to reconsider their decision not to trade Roethlisberger.
That is all speculation, but it seems like the possibility of the Steelers trading Ben Roethlisberger is something Steelers Nation now must consider.
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