Ben Roethlisberger is lucky that football heritage is not decided by finals. If Sunday night really was Big Ben's last NFL game ever, as he has strongly suggested, it was not exactly a microphone fall. In the 42-21 beatdown by the Chiefs, Roethlisberger struggled with rollouts and lacked the creativity and finesse of his opponent, Patrick Mahomes.
Just as no one puts too much emphasis on Dan Marino's 62-7 playoff loss to the Jaguars in his career final, Roethlisberger's clunk of an ending will not be an essential part of his story. But compared to Marino - or most other quarterbacks - Roethlisberger's legacy is complicated.
His success on the field during an 18-season NFL career speaks for itself. Roethlisberger has won the Super Bowl twice and will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Steelers have not suffered a single losing season with him under center. On the other hand, they have been a regular part of the playoffs - during Sunday's losses, Roethlisberger Joe Montana and Brett Favre passed for the third-most career passing yards in the playoffs.
Injuries and age have taken their toll, and in recent years the team has often won despite their quarterback rather than because of him. Roethlisberger in his prime, however, was an absolute marvel. With his characteristic pump-forgeries and the ability to escape pressure, he had a habit of extending games and converting first downs, which did not seem possible… until they were. He was not flashy like younger quarterbacks like Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. Nor was he a quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, who often seems five steps ahead of the opposing defensive coordinators. He was just Ben. Grinty. Strong. Hard.
While Roethlisberger's farewell tour has come with incessant buzz from teammates, TV companies and Steelers fans, the NFL world as a whole does not have the same vague feelings. Some of it is Roethlisberger's personality. He is angry and can be difficult with the media. He also has a public history shouts the teammates.
But most of the hostility stems from Roethlisberger's history with women.
ESPN's Brian Griese spent most of Week 18's Monday Night Football broadcast talking up Roethlisberger as if he were the Messiah. At one point, Griese paused his love party to channel his inner journalist and vaguely mention that Roethlisberger has "made some mistakes."
The first "mistake" occurred in 2008 when Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting Andrea McNulty, then an employee of a Lake Tahoe hotel and casino. McNulty said she was lured to his hotel room under the guise of repairing a broken television. Her complaint alleges that Roethlisberger blocked the door as she tried to walk. According to the lawsuit, the quarterback grabbed her and then tried to kiss her. Roethlisberger denied the allegations and was never charged with any crime. He reached an out-of-court settlement with McNulty in 2011.
The NFL did not punish Roethlisberger. McNulty, on the other hand, was the recipient of backlash from those who did not like to think of their favorite quarterback as an alleged sexual assault. McNulty later suffered from depression.
In 2010, another charge surfaced when a 20-year-old college student in Georgia claimed Roethlisberger assaulted her in the bathroom booth at a nightclub. Her complaint claimed that Roethlisberger's bodyguard grabbed the woman's arm and escorted her to a hallway where the quarterback was waiting with "his penis out of his pants." She says he continued to rape her, and a subsequent medical examination of the woman found "superficial tears and bruises and light bleeding in the genital area", although no semen was found. The case was dropped after authorities cited insufficient evidence. Roethlisberger was questioned by only one police officer, who had accidentally asked Roethlisberger to pose for a picture earlier in the evening and allegedly later described the prosecutor as a "professional bitch".
The NFL finally came up with a six-game suspension for violating the league's personal behavior policy, but later reduced it to four games for "good behavior." Yes, an accused rapist received the same punishment from the league as Tom Brady for escaping air from footballs.
Roethlisberger already had a history of reckless behavior, especially when he crashed his motorcycle in 2006 and sustained serious facial injuries. He was not wearing a helmet and it was reported that he did not have a valid driving license at the time of the crash.
By the time he was suspended, many in the Steelers organization had grown tired of Roethlisberger's behavior. One of the team's other star players, receiver Hines Ward, said the NFL suspension was "justified" and added: "When you're in the quarterback position, everyone looks at you and there are certain situations you can not put yourself in. . ”
Since then, Roethlisberger has stayed out of trouble. He married in 2011 and is the father of three. And he went on to win many more football matches, an achievement that was more than enough to make many fans forget his past.
Of course, Roethlisberger is not the only alleged rapist who has been embraced by his team's fan base. But there is something particularly difficult to swallow as we consider him a player and a person. When we consider that the quarterback is supposed to be the ultimate leader. From a talent standpoint, the Steelers have been fortunate to have a future Hall of Famer at the center for so many years. But the future Hall of Famer is far luckier that the actions he is accused of did not destroy him.
Roethlisberger was charged before Ray Rice hit his wife on camera, and the league was forced to pretend it cared about its players' behavior off the field. What if these accusations had emerged during the recent #MeToo movement? There are a number of different sliding door scenarios that could have led to us saying goodbye to Big Ben years ago. But instead, we've had 18 years with Roethlisberger - glorious for some, uncomfortable and annoying for many.