Rooney's words fail to thrill Steelers fans

Friday, April 16, 2010
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At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, everything came to a halt inside Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, a sports bar owned by the former Steelers running back and located across the street from Heinz Field.

Customers and staff gazed up at the multiple television screens waiting to see what Steelers president Art Rooney II would say about his embattled quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Would the team suspend him? Would it be a lesser form of punishment? Would the Steelers, as remote as it seemed, announce a trade?

With the sound loudly piped into the restaurant, Rooney appeared behind a podium at team headquarters and proclaimed ... nothing very dramatic. He said "disciplinary action" would be forthcoming. But he did not elaborate, except to say that such action will be coordinated with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and no announcement would be made until after next week's NFL Draft.

Oh, and he also talked about the Santonio Holmes trade.

"Anti-climactic," said Phil Sauvengot, 39, a Steelers fan from Steubenville, Ohio. "I want closure."

Dan Williams, a waiter, was more pointed. "It was nonsense," he said.

Williams, 26, who lives in Pittsburgh, said he resented Rooney "justifying" the Holmes deal while also passing the buck to the commissioner and not dealing with Roethlisberger directly.

"If they're waiting for Goodell, I think the Steelers are going against what they say they stand for," he said. "They're basically wiping their hands of it."

Williams, who is African-American, said he is watching the situation closely to see how Roethlisberger is treated compared with African-American players Goodell has suspended.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens to the white poster boy of the franchise," he said.

Tiffany Welsh, who was tending bar, said she wanted some resolution but believes "the Rooneys are not gonna put up with any B.S."

That's also what she's hoping for.

"I think what should happen is he should be benched for a season without pay," said Welsh, 31, who is from Pittsburgh.

Even if it means a losing season?

"It's the principle of the fact," she said. "My daughter is six, and she's a Steelers fan. Do you want to put a (Roethlisberger) jersey on your kid after everything that's been said?"

Meanwhile, Penn Hills High School senior defensive lineman Aaron Donald, a Pitt recruit, said by telephone that although he still likes Roethlisberger "as a football player" and "would shake his hand," he expected him to conduct himself better.

"They should be role models for future players like me trying to make it at that level," Donald said.

Chris Harlan contributed to this report.