PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh
Steelers offered their first tentative show of support for Ben
Roethlisberger, with director of football operations Kevin Colbert
saying the disgraced quarterback has earned the right to make up for
his tawdry behavior.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
suspended the two-time Super Bowl winner for six games for violating
the league's personal conduct policy. Goodell handed down the
punishment after prosecutors decided not to charge Roethlisberger after
a 20-year-old college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in
a Georgia nightclub last month.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger will issue a statement on Monday concerning the suspension.
"I know he is going to make a
comment regarding the discipline of the commissioner on Monday, and
I'll let him do that," Tomlin said. "My understanding is at this point
is he's ready to meet those challenges and take the necessary steps to
move forward with his career."
Colbert's ready to support him.
"We can't defend the behavior or
the actions as an organization and we won't, but we do defend his
opportunity to make right, and I think that's the right thing to do,"
Colbert said. "This guy has helped us win two world championships. He's
made some mistakes, but he also deserves the opportunity to rectify
those mistakes. And we stand behind his opportunity to do that."
Colbert said he was speaking
only for himself, not for the Steelers or Tomlin. Steelers president
Art Rooney II, who did not talk to reporters on Saturday, has been
particularly critical of Roethlisberger.
The quarterback also is being
sued by a different woman who says he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe
hotel-casino. Roethlisberger denies the accusation and was not charged.
He has claimed counter-damages in a lawsuit.
On April 12, Roethlisberger
apologized for his off-field behavior while reading a minute-long
statement and promised to work to regain the trust of his teammates and
fans. He has not commented since then, and he did not speak with
reporters while practicing for two days last week.
Goodell has ordered
Roethlisberger to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by
professionals, and be cleared by the league, before he can resume
practicing or any other team activities.
If Roethlisberger is OK to take
part in training camp the Steelers must decide which one of their other
three quarterbacks — Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon —
Leftwich was traded back to
Pittsburgh by Tampa Bay last week and has signed a contract extension
through 2011. Batch broke his left wrist late last season, while Dixon
has started only one NFL game.
"We'll make some hard and fast
decisions going into training camp," Tomlin said. "The reality is you
can't get four guys ready to play in camp. Right now, we'll work with
all three of these men in the short term, see where they, get
reacquainted with Byron Leftwich. … There's a lot of teaching to be
done and we're going to do that and make a decision prior to going to
Latrobe [for camp]."