If not for an ethical district attorney, an angry but fatherly owner, and a depth chart that's chin strap-thin at quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger might not be a Pittsburgh Steeler today.
As it is, Roethlisberger isn't going to be in the Steelers' starting lineup anytime soon. I'd be stunned -- and disappointed -- if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't bring the wood and suspend Boozin' Ben for at least three games and preferably four: two games for embarrassing his team and the league, another two for being dumber than a blocking sled.
Forget, if you can, that Roethlisberger has left a trail of police reports from Lake Tahoe to Milledgeville, Ga. Or that women seem to accuse him of sexual assault a lot. Or that he's lucky to be alive after a 2006 motorcycle accident. (Go figure: A guy who wears a helmet for a living didn't wear one on a motorcycle.)
What amazes you most is that Roethlisberger never seems to learn. He treats life with the same indifference he treats oncoming rushers. He just stands there, takes the hits, staggers up and does the same thing again and again.
Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb -- model citizen, model teammate, model representative of the league and the Philadelphia Eagles -- gets shipped to the Washington Redskins in a cardboard box. All he did was win games, conduct himself with dignity and never appear in a police mug shot.
The wrong Pennsylvania quarterback got traded. Roethlisberger ought to be in another uniform today, not McNabb. I'd say the Oakland Raiders and Roethlisberger deserve each other, but I'm not sure even Al Davis deserves what Ben has become. Anyway, hasn't Davis already suffered enough with the galactically apathetic JaMarcus Russell?
In Thursday afternoon's news conference, Steelers president Art Rooney II said "at this point" the team had not discussed a Roethlisberger trade with another franchise. At this point.
Intriguing, isn't it?
The Steelers, the fifth-oldest franchise in the NFL, are the ultimate mom-and-pop shop, a family-owned business that has roots as deep as the Monongahela River. The team is so serious about its history that Art Rooney's original office (the old man bought the team in 1933) is preserved in the Steelers' headquarters.
So when Rooney II says the franchise's good name has "taken a hit," he's talking about the legacy of the Rooneys. Maybe that's why he did little to hide his displeasure with a series of off-the-field incidents involving Roethlisberger, kicker Jeff Reed and now-former Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
Holmes was traded to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick and some mouth guards. A little more than a year ago, Holmes was a Super Bowl MVP.
If you attached Rooney II or owner Dan Rooney (who serves as U.S. ambassador to Ireland) to a lie detector, you wonder if you'd find they had kicked the tires on a McNabb trade. It's not like the Redskins gave up a lot for McNabb: a second-rounder in next week's draft and a fourth-rounder in 2011. McNabb is everything that Roethlisberger isn't, beginning with responsible.
I know, Roethlisberger is 28, McNabb is 33. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings, McNabb has zero. But Roethlisberger also has issues that lean toward self-destruction. Why else would he keep putting himself and his career in such compromising situations?
Roethlisberger wasn't charged with a crime in the Georgia case, but he is guilty of stupidity. And who knows how the Tahoe case is going to play out.
Reading between the lines of Rooney's comments Thursday, it sounds as if Roethlisberger is going to remain a Steeler. I'm not sure the team has much of a choice.
Charlie Batch is 35 years old and a dependable backup -- but that's all he is, a backup. The Steelers like the potential of Dennis Dixon, but Dixon has a grand total of 13 completions in two years. A trade to somehow move up to the No. 1 pick and take Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford is a possibility, I suppose.
And all because Roethlisberger keeps failing the only multiple-choice test that matters.
If I think there's a possibility I'm about to do something really dumb, do I ...
A. Walk away.
B. Order another round.
Roethlisberger is running out of B answers and chances. If he's lucky, he'll still be a Steeler at the end of next week and only get suspended for four games by Goodell. And if that happens, he needs to call someone for advice on how to be a pro's pro.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.