PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger has surprised his
Pittsburgh Steelers' teammates many times during his unbeaten
rookie season. He did so again Tuesday, announcing he'll donate his
first NFL playoff paycheck to the tsunami victims relief effort.
Even on a team that openly encourages its players to participate
in charity activities and community events, Roethlisberger's
$18,000 gesture before Saturday's Jets-Steelers game created a
"Wow, I didn't even know that," wide receiver Hines Ward said.
"Guys do a lot of different things in different ways that people
don't always hear about, but that's great -- that's for a great
cause, definitely. That's a big tragedy, and I hope everyone will
at least donate (something)."
Unlike the regular season, when each player earns a weekly share
of his base salary, playoff salaries are determined by the league's
collective bargaining agreement and each player is paid the same.
Roethlisberger, who is 13-0 as a rookie quarterback, hopes other
NFL players will follow his lead.
"I'm going to donate my game check this week to the tsunami
relief -- and hopefully maybe (it will be) a challenge for other
people to do that, too," Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger became motivated to act after numerous NBA
players -- including Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal and Bob Sura --
donated $1,000 per point scored last weekend to the relief effort.
The NBA players' union also donated $500,000, and the NBA will
match the gift.
In the NFL, the Patriots made playoff tickets available to fans
who donated at least $1,000 to efforts to aid the estimated 5
million tsunami victims.
"A game check isn't anything like some of the Yankees and some
of those people who've donated a million dollars, but every little
thing they can get can help," Roethlisberger said. "Hopefully,
it's a challenge to other NFL players. We've seen the NBA players
Roethlisberger, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, has a base
salary of $230,000, but also will collect $9 million in signing and
roster bonuses by early next year and as much as $2.6 million in
first-season performance bonuses.
Roethlisberger's gesture impressed Steelers coach Bill Cowher,
who has talked all season about the rookie's maturity.
"That's a heck of a gesture on his part. That says a lot about
the kid for him to do something like that," Cowher said. "I've
said all along the kid's got a great perspective on things and
that's another example of it."
No other Steelers players have said if they will match
Roethlisberger's gesture, which was announced just before practice
and may not yet be known to them.