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Everything's big in Texas, except Big Ben's night on the town

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Now it can be told: Ben Roethlisberger ate dinner!

With a knife and fork!

And had a few drinks!

In a restaurant!

During Super Bowl week!

Breathless reports about the Tuesday night meal didn't make clear whether the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback chewed his food with his mouth open or kept his napkin on his lap for the duration.

Either way, it immediately became the most scandalous morsel of a drama-less Super Bowl week.

"It's normal for guys to eat dinner," Roethlisberger's coach, Mike Tomlin, protested, "believe it or not."

Right.

The next thing he would have us believe is that Roethlisberger also puts on his pants one leg at a time.

"During the course of the season, guys go out on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," Tomlin said. "Believe it or not, guys live lives."

Who knew, judging by the reaction Thursday to a TMZ.com report that the Steelers' quarterback treated his offensive line to a meal, then provided the late-night entertainment himself by performing his version of "Piano Man" from a bar stool.

"Ben, with all the issues you've been through," a reporter asked, referring to Roethlisberger's suspension earlier this year for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, "why did you think it was appropriate to go out Tuesday night and spend some time in a bar?"

Roethlisberger sat behind a table on a small stage, wearing a sleepy expression, a gray sweatsuit that looked like a pair of pajamas and fleece-lined slippers. He smiled through a very bushy beard.

"It was superstition and tradition," he said. "Tuesday night, I take my linemen out to dinner ... and they get to pick. Usually it's a steakhouse or something. They wanted to go to a barbecue place this time. It was really good."

Obviously, Roethlisberger wasn't talking about his rendition of the Billy Joel pop standard. That was a disaster, if the brief video posted with the report is any indication.

The guys he treated to dinner were mostly noncommittal. All of them loved the food; the singing, not so much.

"I don't want to throw him under the bus," guard Chris Kemoeatu said.

Roethlisberger, however, did take a shot at what he called "the crack TMZ staff," insisting that he and his pals didn't violate the team's 1 a.m. curfew.

"We were home way before," he said.

What he didn't contest was the part of the story about dropping $1,000 for the evening -- $800 tab, plus $200 tip. He also didn't vote in TMZ's poll about whether the jaunt was a "good" or "bad" idea.

Considering the scrapes Roethlisberger has found himself in during seven years in the NFL, the answer might seem obvious.

The four-game suspension earlier this season was his first. But it was the second time Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in less than two years, which led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to take action. Now, Roethlisberger's teammates insist, he's a changed man.

For more on the Pittsburgh Steelers, check out the latest from our bloggers.

NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner, who, like Roethlisberger, has been to the Super Bowl three times, said he hasn't had a chance to speak with the quarterback recently. But Warner, who has one of the most straight-laced reputations in the sport, fiercely defended Roethlisberger's decision to go out Tuesday night.

"You can't just get stuck in your room and think about football 24/7," said Warner, who played in three Super Bowls and won one. "The conventional wisdom is, 'This week, we don't want any distractions.' But I'm a believer that you do need distractions.

"Everybody says, 'Make this like any other week.' Well, you don't sit in your hotel room every other week. You go home from practice, you go out to dinner with your friends, you go to a movie, you chase your kids -- you have plenty of distractions that take your mind off football. And I think you need that, maybe more than ever, during Super Bowl week."

As for Tomlin, he probably didn't vote in the poll, either.

"I'm not concerned one iota," he said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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