Cheers or jeers for Roethlisberger's return?

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Cheers or jeers for Roethlisberger's return?

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Read this quote:

"Ben Roethlisberger hopes he gets a warm reception in his first game back this year in Heinz Field. Many Steelers fans were upset with Roethlisberger's off-field conduct and subsequent suspension. But the city of Pittsburgh is feeling good about its football team, and even more optimistic now that Roethlisberger is returning."

Did you laugh? I did.
The story isn't a bad one. Roethlisberger's return is important news in the NFL this week and should be written about in more than a few ways. This one just happened to make me snort a little. The moment of moral championing from fans is mentioned so fleetingly it's funny.

"Tsk, tsk. Bad, Ben! Now, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!"

I've said before that the personal and professional lives of athletes must be kept in different brain boxes if fans are to keep their sanity. Roethlisberger is a perfect example of why.

If you want to appreciate him then you have to keep your eyes trained on his on-field stats. When you wander over to where the mugshots and court appointments are, well, that's when you start feeling funny about pulling that number 7 t-shirt out of your closet for game day.

Easier said than done? Maybe not.

His first regular-season jog out onto Heinz Field will be an interesting moment for Steelers fans. Will they cheer the quarterback of their professional football team? Or will they boo the man who abused the privilege of wearing black and gold? Multiple times.

Big Ben might be smarter than we think to anticipate cheers not jeers.

Pittsburgh is 3-1 but ranks dead last in NFL passing stats. Fans want the best QB their team can have out on that gridiron, and for the Steelers that's Roethlisberger. Bottom line: They want to win. You know why that matters more? Because the connection they feel is to football.

They don't know the women who accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault. They do know that he beat all the charges he faced. And that motorcycle incident from forever ago? Who doesn't like motorcycles? Bikes are badass! How can you blame the guy?

Some will. But when it's game day in Steelers Country, most won't. Roethlisberger is banking on it.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”