In a recent episode of Ben Roethlisberger's Footbahlin podcast, the Hall of Fame QB joined with former Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jerome Bettis to cook up a juicy conspiracy theory for all the football fans too bored with the ongoing regular season.
Reminiscing about the 2004 AFC championship game — a game in which the Steelers were beaten practically wire-to-wire by the far superior New England Patriots — Roethlisberger casually threw out a serious allegation: "the Patriots cheated."
Of course, he's not the first player to allege a Patriots cheating scandal. And, to be fair, the Patriots have actually cheated before. Bettis took it one step further, detailing the Patriots' devious scheme in razor-sharp focus.
"It was 4th-and-1, they call a timeout. Who goes to the sideline when it’s a timeout? The defensive captains. [Ted] Washington, the nose guard, they pulled him to the sideline. ... They stopped us on fourth down. That’s a critical play in the game. They had our signs and they called a timeout to get ready for that play because they knew it was coming."
As our very own Wayne Gregoire helpfully pointed out, Ted Washington did not play for the 2004 Patriots. It would seem The Bus has a rather foggy memory on the subject, and a timeout on fourth-and-one at a critical juncture in the game doesn't exact rise to the level of suspicious. Most defensive captains get pulled to the sidelines on a timeout to discuss potential plays. That's how coaching works.
In response to the ridiculous allegations of a couple former foes, two-time New England Patriots champion Asante Samuel went on his own podcast to dispute the claims in hilarious fashion.
Asante Samuel dispels New England Patriots-Pittsburgh Steelers cheating conspiracy
It's nice to see players care this much two decades after the fact, but Samuel has the right read here. Roethlisberger and Bettis have a bad case of sore loser syndrome. Maybe your eyes start to play tricks after such a thorough butt-kicking, but the Steelers were outplayed all those years ago — plain and simple.
We can dispute 'Rodney Harrison was better than Troy Polamalu" in the broader context of NFL history all we want, it won't change the outcome of that single game on Jan. 23, 2005. The Steelers were down 24-3 at halftime and the Pats never looked back. Tom Brady got the better of Roethlisberger on several occasions, actually, so it's hard to imagine "cheating" in the reason this single game went the way it did.
We can chalk this up to a rather silly old rivalry and nothing more. The Patriots have definitely cheated, but there's no reason to believe New England was nefariously stealing plays from a team after running up the score early in the game.