Roethlisberger hopes others follow his lead

Updated: January 11, 2005, 6:21 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers
Att Comp PaTD RuTD Int Rat
295 196 17 1 11 98.1

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 positive stir.

"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 do it."

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press