Don't be fooled by the manners and verandas. Charming Charleston is a rough, tough Pittsburgh Steelers town.

There are more Terrible Towels in the Lowcountry than Carolina Panthers jerseys, more relocated Steel Curtain kindred critters than Dallas metroplex escapees or ex-Wisconsin residents and certainly more official/unofficial "Steelers Bars" around these parts than social establishments annexed by fans of all other NFL teams combined.

New England Patriots?

They haven't been good long enough.

The Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons?

Too many of those fans are nursing ankle injuries incurred from bandwagon jumping.

Steelers Mania South is part passion, part Super Bowl success and part Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh's extraordinarily talented and apparently dangerous quarterback pops into town from time to time and has business interests here.

Which, if you read a recent Milledgeville, Ga., police report, is a frightening thought for Charleston college coeds and their parents.

Warning: It might be best to steer clear of that Steeler here.

At least until NFL Commissioner/Sheriff Roger Goodell says it's safe to go back in the watering hole with Roethlisberger and his traveling pals.

Fortunately, Goodell on Wednesday lowered the boom on Big Ben. A six-game suspension complete with a "behavioral evaluation" treatment plan was relatively bold punishment considering the 28-year-old native Ohioan has not been charged with a crime. The NFL too often has over-protected its players, and many analysts forecast a four-game penalty ending just prior to the Steelers' bye week in the upcoming schedule.

Personal conduct

But credit Goodell again for cracking down on knuckleheads. He has suspended 16 players under the NFL's "personal conduct" policy since taking over as commish in 2006. Roethlisberger, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Saturday, will accept his punishment.

You have to love the official statement from NFL headquarters.

"Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare," Goodell said in fatherly words aimed at Roethlisberger, accused last month in Georgia of sexual assault by a 20-year-old college student. A Nevada woman is suing Roethlisberger, accusing him of rape in 2008.

Goodell was feeling all kinds of heat, including theories in the mainstream media and elsewhere that a black player in Roethlisberger's cleats would have received harsher legal treatment and quicker NFL judgment.

Big Ben bouncers

Too bad. He, for all the glory, remains an underrated quarterback.

Two Super Bowl rings.

A TD pass-to-interception ratio of 75 to 38 over the last three seasons.

Few players take more hard hits on the field.

More than anything, the guy simply doesn't get enough credit on a team best known during his tenure for The Bus and traditionally rugged defense.

Very important to note: Roethlisberger was not charged in Lake Tahoe, either.

But the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has disassociated itself from Big Ben, removing his name from an elephant display.

The official statements from the Georgia case, widely available online, are worth examining.

And when Goodell explains himself by pointing to league "integrity" and Roethlisberger "remorse," it seems possible something bad happened in Georgia.

Something worth prompting local bar owners to hire an extra bouncer or two to make sure Roethlisberger does not attempt to enter.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or