Ben Roethlisberger has had a rough off-season. From legal troubles to what is now a four-game suspension to start the season, things just haven't been going his way. And things are only getting worse, it seems.
It was announced Monday that Big Ben was not named a team captain, a position he's held the previous two seasons. As the leader of two Super Bowl-winning teams, his leadership alone would seemingly earn him the vote. However, with all his recent troubles and his suspension to start the season, it's not surprising that his teammates went a different route when selecting the guys who best represent the entire team. Obviously the Steelers don't fully trust him again yet, and who can blame them.
Regardless of that, while losing his captaincy may have been a blow to the gut for the quarterback, what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said today is surely a shot below the belt. He announced that even when Roethlisberger is eligible to return from his suspension on Oct. 17th against the Browns, there is no guarantee that he will be the starter. The best part of it is, the starter over him would be Dennis Dixon. While Dixon is not an awful QB by any means, he still doesn't compare to a former Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl-winning QB.
While Tomlin wasn't definitively saying Big Ben isn't guaranteed his spot, it's still surprising that several people in the Steelers organization seem to be jumping off the Roethlisberger bandwagon. As an outsider looking in, it's obvious that Tomlin is just covering his own butt when asked who would start when Big Ben returned, telling Sirius Satellite Radio:
"I'm going to dodge that one and not artfully. I'm not going to back myself in a corner."
However, unless Dixon leads the Steelers to four straight blowout wins and proves that he's invaluable to the success of Pittsburgh's season, there's really no way that he'd keep the job. If he does, it likely signals the end of Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. But don't expect that to happen.
So while Big Ben can be sure that he'll eventually be starting again for the Steelers, one has to wonder if he may not return as the same quarterback that he's been. With his teammates showing that they don't completely trust him, and his coach not granting the complete confidence that he's gotten in years past, it may be time that all of Roethlisberger's off-field antics finally caught up to him. That would be the real punishment, and perhaps an eye-opener for this knucklehead.