While they are expecting to learn today what punishment Ben Roethlisberger will receive from National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, the Steelers have received trade feelers from other teams and have not ruled out the possibility of dealing their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has learned.
To gird for a possible suspension for Mr. Roethlisberger, the Steelers traded a seventh-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday night for quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was Mr. Roethlisberger's backup during their 2008 Super Bowl season.
"I'm happy to be back," Mr. Leftwich told the Post-Gazette shortly after the trade was announced by the Steelers. "I have a big ol' smile on my face."
It is not believed the Steelers are actively seeking to trade Mr. Roethlisberger, nor are they close to doing what they did with Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes, who was traded for a fifth-round pick to the New York Jets because the team was planning to release him anyway.
Nonetheless, the possibility Mr. Roethlisberger could be traded, provided the price is right, is not being discounted by the team.
The Steelers are expecting to hear today what punishment Mr. Roethlisberger will receive from Mr. Goodell in connection with an alleged sexual assault incident in Georgia.
Mr. Roethlisberger was not charged in the case in Milledgeville, Ga., in which he was accused by a 20-year-old college student of assaulting her in a nightclub bathroom. But he is expected to be suspended by the league, perhaps two to four games, for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a news conference Thursday that the Steelers would work with Mr. Goodell to determine the punishment and that no further discipline would be administered.
Mr. Rooney said Mr. Roethlisberger is prepared to accept the "consequences."
At the time of the news conference, the Steelers were unaware of the details of the alleged incident that were contained in a police report that was made public Friday.
Mr. Goodell's announcement would come a day before the start of the NFL draft -- a draft in which director of football operations Kevin Colbert has said the Steelers do not need a quarterback.
Mr. Roethlisberger was on the field Tuesday for his second day of offseason workouts with his teammates. He did not speak with the media after practice.
But, it is apparent his tenuous situation is one of the reasons the Steelers made a trade with the Buccaneers to bring back Mr. Leftwich, who will join Dennis Dixon and veteran Charlie Batch as backup quarterbacks.
"They want me there and whatever they want me to do, I'll do," said Mr. Leftwich, who was planning to drive from his hometown of Washington, D.C., to meet with the Steelers today. "You don't make a trade for a guy for no reason."
The Steelers re-signed Mr. Batch last month and have expressed confidence in the progress of Mr. Dixon, who will enter his third season. Mr. Leftwich was likely re-acquired as insurance for whatever happens to Mr. Roethlisberger.
"I don't know Ben's situation," said Mr. Leftwich, who will go to Marshall University Thursday to be installed into the school's Hall of Fame this weekend.
Mr. Leftwich, 30, completed 21 of 36 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and a 104.3 passer rating when he played for the Steelers in 2008. After joining the Steelers in training camp, Mr. Leftwich had his best game with the team Nov. 3, 2008, against the Washington Redskins, when he completed 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards, one touchdown and a 145.8 passer rating in one half of play in relief of an injured Mr. Roethlisberger.
Mr. Leftwich was originally drafted seventh overall in the 2003 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent his first four seasons in Jacksonville (2003-06) and one season in Atlanta (2007) before signing with the Steelers in 2008.
Mr. Leftwich signed with Tampa Bay in April 2009 and started the first three games of the season for the Buccaneers before being placed on the reserve/injured list with an injured elbow. He has completed 900 of 1,545 passes (58.3 percent) for 10,218 yards, 58 touchdowns, 41 interceptions and a 79.6 passer-rating in his seven NFL seasons. He has started in 49 of the 57 games played in his NFL career.