The shady side of Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger will go down as one the best quarterbacks in the Pittsburgh Steelers' storied history. However, the star quarterback's impressive sports stats will forever be linked with his less than stellar off-the-field exploits that range from sexual assault accusations to being labeled a "locker room problem" according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.  

For his two-decades spanning career, the shifty Big Ben has managed to sidestep major issues like he has pass rushes. While his early career was marked by bad behavior off-the-field, his recent problems have shifted onto the gridiron, primarily the locker room, where he's been called out by his own teammates for never having to be held accountable. 

But the qualities that make a star like Roethlisberger a great athlete are sometimes also what make them personally objectionable. Watch Michael Jordan's arguably egomaniacal Hall-of-Fame speech for a good example. For the record, Big Ben has seemingly cleaned up his personal act, becoming a family man with a namesake charity foundation that supports first responders. Whether you like Roethlisberger or not, you can't argue that he's a first ballot Hall of Fame talent who will go into Canton with a lot of baggage. 

He stiff-armed rape charges

Big Ben has been hard to take down both on and off the field. In July 2009, Andrea McNulty, a former Hotel at Harrah's Lake Tahoe employee, filed a civil suit against Roethlisberger for "sexual assault and battery" and "false imprisonment." Her suit also named eight of her co-workers for allegedly conspiring to "cover up" the assault "after the fact." McNulty alleged that Roethlisberger raped her in his room in July 2008 after he requested that she fix a television in his room wasn't working. McNulty claimed the attack occurred when the 6'5" 240-plus pound Roethlisberger blocked her from leaving after she determined that that the TV was working properly.

Both Roethlisberger and Harrah's denied the allegations, and the lawsuits were eventually dropped after a former coworker of McNulty's claimed in an affidavit that McNulty had bragged about "sleeping" with Roethlisberger and "talked about going to Pittsburgh to try to 'run into' him." In September 2009, McNulty's lawyer offered to drop the suit if the Steelers quarterback would admit that he had assaulted McNulty, donate $100,000 to a Reno charity for abused women, and write a letter of apology. Roethlisberger's representative called the offer "bizarre" and rejected it. The case of he said-she said was settled out of court in January 2012. 

Although the NFL didn't take action over this incident, this wouldn't be the last time Big Ben would be accused of sexual assault. 

He avoided the law, but not the NFL

Ben Roethlisberger avoided getting sacked for sexual assault in 2009, but he found himself facing a real-life fourth and long the following year when he was accused of raping a college coed in Milledgeville, Georgia. CNN reported that a then-20-year-old student at Georgia College & State University alleged that the star NFL quarterback bought her and her friends shots at a college nightclub, led her to a backroom where he exposed himself and then raped her in a bathroom stall.  

Three of her friends gave statements to Milledgeville Police that supported the accuser's story. ABC News sources revealed that Roethlisberger admitted to police investigators that he had 'sexual conduct" with the coed, but said that it was never "consummated." 

The anonymous accuser called an audible, writing a letter that asked the district attorney not to prosecute. The alleged victim's lawyer emphasized that she was not recanting her accusation but was afraid that the trial would be "a very intrusive personal experience". On April 12, 2010, Georgia district attorneys decided to not file sex assault charges against Roethlisberger saying that there was insufficient evidence. 

Although Roethlisberger was able to avoid two sexual assault allegations, the NFL suspended him six games in the 2010 season for violating the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy. The suspension was later reduced to four games as Roethlisberger would lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowl XLV that season, only to lose to the Green Bay Packers. 

He wasn't wearing a helmet

Ben Roethlisberger has had a Hall-of-Fame career but it seems like he often can't get out of his own way. The youngest quarterback to ever lead a team to the Super Bowl sustained numerous injuries (broken jaw and nose) in a horrific motorcycle accident in 2006. Roethlisberger was inexplicably not wearing a helmet in the two vehicle crash in downtown Pittsburgh in which the driver of the other vehicle was cited for failure to yield the right of way.  

Roethlisberger didn't possess a valid Pennsylvania motorcycle license at the time of the accident, but he did have a temporary (albeit expired) permit. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Big Ben wasn't wearing a helmet which is optional in Pennsylvania only for operators who currently possess and have had a motorcycle license for at least two years. Not wearing a helmet seems like a puzzling choice for the Steelers QB whose mother, Ida, tragically died in a car accident when he was 8 years old.   

According to ESPN, Roethlisberger told then-Steelers head coach Bill Cowher that he didn't "like riding with helmets". The NFL team didn't have a specific clause regarding riding a motorcycle but another Steelers quarterback legend was angry with his risk-taking predecessor at the time. "Ride it (motorcycle) when you retire," barked four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw. 

Did he fake a fumble?

Whether you love or hate Ben Roethlisberger, no one questioned the Steelers' all-time passing leader's desire to win. That is until March of 2019, when his former Pittsburgh teammate, running back Josh Harris, called him out for allegedly sabotaging a play during the 2014 season. "Week 17 we were playing the (Cincinnati) Bengals," Harris tweeted. "Todd Haley (then-Steelers offensive coordinator) called a run play with very little time left in the game. Ben wanted to kneel. He rolled his eyes in the huddle. He then purposely fumbles the ball. I had to recover it. At that moment I knew what kinda person he was." 

Harris, who played one season with the Steelers, also tweeted a video of the play to back up his claim. "If fans only knew how much he hated Todd Haley," Harris wrote in a follow-up tweet. "That's the main reason I feel he did it … Make Haley look bad for calling a run that late in the game." The Steelers went on to win the game, but fumbling on purpose to spite a coach is an explosive allegation that would stain Roethlisberger's illustrious career. Former Steelers backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who was on the sidelines during the 2014 game, disputed Harris' allegations in his own detailed video (via Twitter). "Ben is the fiercest competitor I've ever been around," Gradkowski says in the video. "There is no way he fumbled on purpose." 

He 'terrified' Stormy Daniels

Ben Roethlisberger found himself in the middle of the President Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels scandal. In her autobiography Full Disclosure, Daniels, an adult film actress, dove into her skin-crawling account of an alleged affair with Trump. She also recalled that when she met up with Trump the day after they allegedly had sex at a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament, the future president introduced her to the Steelers star quarterback. 

The Space Nuts star wrote that her "intuition alarms went off" as Big Ben escorted her back to her hotel room, per Trump's request. Daniels recalled that Roethlisberger asked her for a "good night kiss," which she said she refused, and that Roethlisberger pushed lightly on her door as they stood outside it. He then allegedly "stood outside, not leaving," while repeatedly knocking on the door and asking to be let in, according to an excerpt of the book obtained by CNN. "I was terrified," Daniels wrote of the encounter, adding, "I am rarely terrified." 

PennLive reported that Roethlisberger declined to comment on Daniels' mention of him in her book. 

He threatened to take his ball and go home

Big Ben is one of the best NFL quarterbacks of his generation but he also can be a Big Baby. Following a bitter loss to the New England Patriots in in the 2016 AFC championship, Roethlisberger told The Cook and Poni Show on CBS radio's 93.7 The Fan that he was thinking about hanging up his cleats. "I'm gonna take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season," he said, adding, "If there's gonna be a next season."

Although the father of three made valid points, Roethlisberger's coach Mike Tomlin said he wasn't "alarmed" and chalked it up to Roethlisberger blowing off some steam following a disappointing loss. Of course, Big Ben didn't walk away from the game nor his $20 million year per season contract, posting some of his best numbers in the following seasons. 

Roethlisberger later stated he wants to play for "as long as they'll have me," and then took it personally when the Steelers drafted his heir apparent Mason Rudolph in 2018. "I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you can get some really good football players that can help this team (win) now," Roethlisberger told The Cook and Poni Show (via ESPN). We guess it's a damned if you do or don't with Roethlisberger. 

He's been accused of having an 'owner's mentality'

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell formed a Killer B's trio that became "the first team since the NFL merger to have three different teammates rank in the top two in the league in passing, rushing and receiving yardage," according to ESPN. They also led the NFL in drama which eventually led to both Brown and Bell no longer being on the team.

Ex-Steeler guard Ramon Foster compared the Steelers' 2018 season to that of a reality show. "Nobody wants to be labeled as the football version of the Kardashians," Foster told Sirius XM (via ESPN). The 2018 season seemed over before it started when star running back Bell refused to sign his Franchise Tag contract. The locker room drama went from bad to worse when Roethlisberger called out teammates publicly, and the mercurial Brown was involved in a string of on-and-off-the-field incidents that culminated with Brown reportedly getting into an heated argument with Roethlisberger and being benched for the final game of the season which ended with the Steelers missing the playoffs. 

While a lot of the blame for the lost season was placed on the since-traded Brown, and on Bell, who signed with the New York Jets, Big Ben somehow was exempt. This irked Brown, who was now a Raiders wide receiver, prompting him to tweet that Roethlisberger had "an owner's mentality," which alludes to the star quarterback not being held accountable for his deeds. 

He thinks he's 'earned the right' to slam his teammates

Roethlisberger has never been shy to voice his opinion, especially about the performance or his teammates' lack thereof. During his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger took issue with a number of plays and players, most notably star wideout Antonio Brown's route running which led to a late-game interception.

"I think I have earned the right to be able to do that with as long as I have been here," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via USA Today), "and I'll just be just as critical of myself (in the media), as well." With multiple Super Bowl rings and six Pro Bowl appearances already in the record books, the star quarterback certainly has the stats to be looked at as a franchise player but does it give him the right to call out teammates publicly? 

Former Steeler Isaac Redman believes the star quarterback has too much power within the organization, telling Sports Illustrated, "When you just only see the guy in the locker room and on the field and you get to a radio show and you say something bad, it's going to rub guys the wrong way. Some stuff should be kept in house. You come to them, you don't put it out in the public. When you do that, you open yourself up to criticism."