Head coach Mike Tomlin expects fans to cheer Ben Roethlisberger during the team's game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the quarterback's first since serving a four-game suspension due to a second straight offseason with allegations of rape:
"I expect him to get a warm reception. I really do. I really think that is the nature of Steeler nation. I know we are excited to have him back."
I suppose one way of reading this is, "Guys, please don't boo our idiot quarterback. Please." Even still, I can't imagine there won't be at least some jeers at Heniz Field this Sunday. There will be some Browns fans in attendance, as well as some Steelers faithful who still feel spurned by Roethlisberger's off-the-field transgressions.
Nonetheless, I think Tomlin is right on the money. I might be singing a different tune if Pittsburgh was winless, or 1-3, or even .500. But because the team has been so successful without their star quarterback, even the fans who haven't forgiven Roethlisberger are tantalized by thoughts of how good the Steelers could be when takes charge of a passing attack currently ranked 31st in the league. Even if some fans feel compelled to boo him when the starting lineups are announced, it will only take a big-gainer or two to cleanse their palates.
On the road in Week 7, I can't imagine Miami Dolphins fans show any mercy at all, but for now, Roethlisberger can count on a warm reception at home.