Giving his two cents

By Jerry DiPaola
Updated: July 8, 2010

PITTSBURGH — Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis shared a tee box Wednesday with some of the greatest names in golf, laughing with Arnold Palmer and hitting long drives onto the slick fairways of Oakmont Country Club with Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer.

But when the celebrity exhibition ended and he stashed away his big driver — adorned with his signature No. 36 — he had a warning for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Asked what Roethlisberger must do to win back fans after twice being accused of sexual assault in the past year, Bettis said there is no easy answer for his former teammate.

“It is a situation where he has to prove his heart is in the right place,” Bettis said. “And I know from knowing Ben that his heart is in the right place.”

Bettis joined Roethlisberger in the Steelers’ backfield in 2004 and ’05, retiring after winning Super Bowl XL. He said he shares text messages with Roethlisberger but has not spoken with him this year.

If asked, he would offer the following advice:

“He has to keep his head down, play hard and give back to the community,” said Bettis, 38. “If he does that, slowly but surely, he will be able to work through the process.”

Another warning: “It is not going to be a quick fix.”

Bettis said the Steelers could be embarking on a tough season, especially with Roethlisberger suspended for at least the first four games.

“They have an uphill battle,” he said.

He pointed to the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by right tackle Willie Colon, which could weaken the ground game while it must compensate for the absence of Roethlisberger.

“The running game is going to have to sustain this team until Ben comes back,” Bettis said. “Now, the question mark is the offensive line and how well they perform without having their anchor. It is going to be difficult, but it gives (the Steelers) the chance to kind of be the underdogs. They haven’t been the underdogs for a long time.”