Will Roethlisberger's Rocky Offseason Change Anything On the Field?

Ben Roethlisberger will reportedly not be charged after a month-long investigation into an incident at a Georgia club in early March. But does anything that happened -- or didn't -- in Milledgeville on March 5 change anything about Roethlisberger's standing with the Steelers?

Two weeks ago, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was content to let the case run its course, saying "I think at this time it's kind of appropriate to watch these things and let these things run their course." Steelers president Art Rooney II also felt no need to rush to judgment: "At the moment, I think we're in a situation we're going to let this investigation play out and then go from there."

We've gotten our jollies at TSB posting lampoonings of the Steelers' recent off-field issues. But with Roethlisberger's indiscretions preceding underwhelming on-field performances by the Black and Gold, it's fair to wonder if a third moment of spectacular stupidity colors evaluations of the Steelers' star's judgment -- and dooms this Steelers season to mediocrity.

In 2006, Roethlisberger crashed his motorcycle while not wearing a helmet, breaking his jaw and missing the first game of the regular season; the Steelers followed a Super Bowl season with an 8-8 mark. Last year, Roethlisberger was named in a civil suit that alleged he sexually assaulted a casino employee in 2008; the Steelers' 2009 mirrored their 2006, their Super Bowl defense ending with a 9-7 record and no playoff berth.

In years that weren't preceded by off-field troubles for Big Ben, though, the Steelers have been brilliant. The Steelers are 65-33 in the regular season since Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004, but 48-16 in seasons that follow tranquil off-seasons on the Big Ben front, with both Super Bowl victories and an AFC Championship loss coming in that stretch. That gaudy winning percentage was likely the key factor in Roethlisberger getting a massive extension in 2008, and it certainly seems more than coincidental that it is hurt when Roethlisberger encounters personal tumult.

Roethlisberger hasn't been convicted of any crimes, and hasn't faced any discipline from the NFL. But would it be surprising for Roger Goodell to suspend Roethlisberger for part of the 2010 season? And would it be shocking to hear that Pittsburgh's brass is dismayed by their quarterback's penchant for trouble? (It cannot help that Santonio Holmes is reportedly facing a four-game suspension.)

The NFL's short season and parity help make correlation and causation nearly impossible, but the Steelers' mediocre seasons following both of Roethlisberger's previous incidents are at least evidence that Big Ben's troubles haven't lead to great team performances in the season immediately following them. 

It will be interesting to see if 2010 breaks that trend.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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